Book Reviews

[review] Lies Beneath – Anne Greenwood Brown

Release Date: June 12, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Press (Random House)
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 303
Format: Hardcover
Source: ARC received from publisher

Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans, killing them to absorb their energy. But this summer the underwater clan targets Jason Hancock out of pure revenge. They blame Hancock for their mother’s death and have been waiting a long time for him to return to his family’s homestead on the lake.

Hancock has a fear of water, so to lure him in, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock’s daughter, Lily. Easy enough—especially as Calder has lots of practice using his irresistable good looks and charm on ususpecting girls.

Only this time Calder screws everything up: he falls for Lily—just as Lily starts to suspect that there’s more to the monsters-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined. 

Tell Me More: It seems that there is less of an interest in mermaids as there is in mermen among YA authors and readers, if recent book releases such as The Vicious Deep and Lies Beneath are any indication. And who could blame them? Popular culture is saturated with portrayals of seductive, elusive sea maidens, with nary a boy to spare. But as always, stories of the paranormal reflect back on human nature, and the first book in the Lies Beneath wasn’t as deeply reflective as I’d hoped it would be.

The premise is flawless at first sight: murderous mermaids? Be still, my dark-fairy-tale-loving heart. It was hard to control my enthusiasm for this novel because it seemed to know exactly where paranormal novels could go wrong, and it knew how to fix them. I loved the idea that maybe this would be a case of unrequited love on Calder’s side, functioning as a commentary on power balances between men and women in real life, when men seem to hold all the power. Unfortunately, I may have piled my expectations too high. As compelling and charismatic as Calder was in the first five or six chapters, my interest in him began to dwindle as it became clear that the romance was gaining traction. Just as I expect novels with female protagonists to have male love interests that are more than their looks or witty repartee, I also expect female love interests to be as fascinating to me as they are to the male protagonist. If a novel has to have a love story, the writer should take every opportunity to wow the reader with it, whether it’s through grand gestures or a steady, solid development. I never felt like Calder and Lily needed to be with one another, that both of them could be at their best with one another.

And that’s where my dissatisfaction with Lies Beneath can be traced: the sense of urgency and power of revenge was never present. Certainly I understood why Calder and his mersisters wanted to kill Jason Hancock. But between the writing, dialogue and structure of the novel itself, I wasn’t lost in the plot. I didn’t feel the things Calder felt, so I couldn’t sympathize with him as a character or as a person. His emotions were told to me, and I acknowledged them, but I didn’t experience them.

Honestly, Lies Beneath is a decent novel. It takes you from point A to point Z with a steady, reliable pace, and it pulls out those plot twists at the right time. But I don’t think that it possessed the spirit of a story that absolutely, without a doubt, needed to be shared with the world.  I believe that because while reading the novel, I tried to pinpoint the uniqueness of Anne Greenwood Brown’s singular writer’s voice in the story, and I felt like it was still too distant from me, clouded over and foggy. I think there’s more, so much more, to Ms. Brown’s writing than she’s shown in this novel, and I firmly believe that it’ll come out in her next stories.

The Final Say: Mermaid aficionados will certainly enjoy this new addition to the lore, but readers looking for characters with a strong sense of agency may not be satisfied by Lies Beneath.

About Anne

Anne Greenwood Brown grew up sailing the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior, leaning over the rail and wondering, with a lake that big, that ancient, what amazing thing might flash by. Now she knows. Lies Beneath is her first novel.

Add Lies Beneath on Goodreads | Follow Anne on Twitter @AnneGBrown | Visit Anne’s website

Order Lies Beneath from Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters

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