Sunday, April 22, 2012

Review: Vicious Deep (Cordova)

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AUTHOR: Zoraida Cordova
SERIES: Vicious Deep, book 1
PUBLISHER: Sourcebooks Fire
PUBLICATION DATE: May 1, 2012
ISBN: 9781402265105
PAGES: 384
SOURCE: NetGalley
GENRE: fantasy (merpeople)
GIVE IT TO: HS fantasy fans
SUMMARY: A strange weather event at Coney Island causes lifeguard Tristan to get sucked out to sea, where he encounters a frightening but beautiful woman with razor-sharp teeth. When he regains consciousness onshore, Tristan chalks the near-death experience up to a bad dream. Soon, however, Tristan and his best friend Layla discover that the nightmare is real and that Tristan is not who they thought he was.

REVIEW: On the surface, Vicious Deep has all the ingredients that I love to see in a YA novel: a male protagonist, a seemingly unattainable romance, mermaids and an assortment of mythological sea creatures, snarky humor, a quest to find an oracle... but I can't say I loved this book. For one thing, it took me THREE WEEKS to finish reading it. I kept putting it down, falling asleep after three pages, reading other books "in between." Why did that happen? Why was I so disconnected with the characters and the story? I absolutely adore mermaid literature, and male protagonist/ unwitting merman Tristan is likeable and funny. While Layla kind of irritates me with her never-ending spunk, the characters are mostly pretty likeable and clearly-drawn.

So why didn't I like the book? One word: pacing. Very little actually happens in the novel's 380 pages. There is a lot of talk about what's going to happen, what's happening to Tristan's body, what's going down in the mermaid community. I would have loved to see more connection between Tristan and Layla. On one hand, Tristan loves Layla more than just about anything, but he also checks out the female mermaids quite frequently. He's an insatiable flirt who knows girls find him attractive, and he sometimes uses that to get girls to do what he wants them to do. That may be realistic, but it doesn't make me really root for Tristan to end up with Layla.

I wish there were fewer instances of gratuitous language and references to Tristan's "junk." Profanity does not bother me (my husband likes to call me "Captain" because I "cuss like a sailor"), but I think the profanity usage in Vicious Deep is unnecessary. Even though I didn't love the pacing, I would have put Vicious Deep in my middle school library if it weren't for the frequency of the F-word and references to Tristan's "junk." I do have many books in my library that include profanity and sexual references, but I hate it when mature content seems thrown in just for the heck of it.

All that said, I have no doubt Vicious Deep will be a successful book. The cover is gorgeous, there's a male protagonist, and mermaids are hot right now. All the reviews I've seen praise it highly, and the Goodreads rating is well over 4-stars. It's not bad or terrible; it just didn't do much for me.

THE BOTTOM LINE: While for me, Vicious Deep has serious pacing issues and too much unnecessary profanity, I believe it will be a successful novel that will appeal to many teens. For middle school librarians concerned about mature content, check out Lies Beneath.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I can't get this one for middle school; see content advisory below. Highly recommended for high school libraries.

READALIKES: Lies Beneath (Anne Greenwood Brown)

RATING BREAKDOWN:
  • Overall: 3/5
  • Creativity: 4/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Engrossing: 1/5
  • Writing: 2/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 2/5

CONTENT:
  • Language: medium-high; includes multiple instances of sh** and fu**
  • Sexuality: medium; multiple references to Tristan's manhood (Such as where does "it" go when he transforms, feeling "heat" in his pants); a few mild kissing scenes
  • Violence: mild-medium; some sea creature deaths (somewhat bloody/gory but also kind of funny); two human deaths (gory but not too descriptive)
  • Drugs/Alcohol: mild; a couple of scenes where teens drink (one unknowingly gets drunk). Neither scene is a big deal unless you are completely opposed to teen drinking in YA books.

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