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Deborah Smith
book cover

Book 2 of the Waterlilies Series
2004, July, BelleBooks
Buy from Amazon.com (trade paperback)

Who recommends:
Who discommends: Lynn

I just finished Deborah Smith's DIARY OF A RADICAL MERMAID, which I think was the final title of TWO IF BY SEA. I normally adore Deborah Smith, but I found one of the two main female characters so annoying that I would give this book a gentle discommend.

I love Molly Revere's part of the story (she's a JK Rowling-like writer of children's books about mermaids who discovers her own mermaid heritage and falls in love with a man driven to avenge the death of his sister.) Her self discovery is marvelous.

I had a hard time with the other main character, Juna Lee Poinfax. Smith is normally very good at sulky, bratty characters with redeeming features, but I just found Juna Lee tiresome, and the chick-lit voice of that character overdone. I wonder if I would have liked the story better with the former title, which would have--in my mind--put Molly Revere more at the forefront. She seemed to me to be a much more attractive and interesting character. Thinking of Juna Lee as an annoying, but secondary, character might have made me more tolerant. I know this is an arbitrary distinction, but I'm used to certain narrative structures.

Juna Lee is finally redeemed, and the book partially so, by a very strong entry late in the book that does justify the "Radical Mermaid" title, but I'd almost completely given up on her by then.

Smith fleshes out the Waterlilies world in this book and gives us a little glimpse of the characters from the first book, ALICE AT HEART. In the Waterlilies books so far, Smith experiments more with form and style, as well as the actual story, in a way she doesn't in her mainstream fiction. These books aren't as good in absolute terms as her mainstream works, but I'd rather see an author take chances even if some parts don't quite succeed.--Lynn (2 Aug 04)

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