RUSH OUT TO GET this utterly superb, brilliant, and thought-provoking debut novel! It’s the best book I’ve read so far this year and I’m already organizing a book cocktail party for 40 women friends to talk about it- there’s just so much packed in it!
As a mash-up of action thriller, feminist novel and dystopian sci-fi, there are two deeply intertwined stories within the novel. The first centers on Penelope who teaches English literature for little money at a Connecticut high school and in her spare time has written a novel (within the novel) called American Mermaid. The novel gets praised by a powerful online influencer and becomes an overnight viral sensation and bestseller. Penelope leaves her job, having been offered high pay to go out to L.A. to turn her novel into a screenplay for a major film studio.
The second story consists of “excerpts” woven throughout the book of Penelope’s novel, about a baby mermaid found stranded on shore by a uber-wealthy childless couple the Grangers who take her in as their own and name her Sylvia. They pay huge sums of cash to a doctor who splits Sylvia’s tail into two legs. But the legs do not work leaving Sylvia both wheel-chairbound and in constant terrible pain. At 24, Sylvia tries to kill herself by throwing herself overboard into the sea, only to see her tail come back together and her realization that her adoptive father is seriously up to no good around profiting from pending climate disaster as the world’s oceans heat up.
Upon arrival in Hollywood, Penelope’s assigned two fellow young “bros” who while experienced crafting novels into screenplays, want to turn Sylvia into from a strong warrior to a sexy teen and unintelligent siren for men. Penelope starts attending Hollywood parties with humorous observations of celebrity life, amid she fears as more and more things go wrong with the screenplay that Sylvia actually may be haunting her out of disgust with the movie’s direction.
There are so many LAUGH-OUT-LOUD moments, as well as deep insights into self-acceptance, what makes a strong woman, and a ridiculously BRILLIANT tie-in to the Starbucks logo.
Thanks to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for an advanced reader’s copy.