In trying to sum up Mer, I couldn’t help but think that this is the mermaid verison of Twilight – but dumbed down even further for graphic novel format. The plot is silly, the characters unrealistic, the romance forced, the pacing sluggish, and the drama over-the-top. The illustration work is fine, nothing special and the color work is fine. But this feels very much like a studied attempt to compress every YA fantasy romance cliche into a small and undemanding read. Perfect for prepubescent girls, then, I guess.
Story: Aryn’s father has moved her to a new home – and she doesn’t get along well with anyone except one girl who friends her. But when a cute boy gets in between them, Aryn discovers that mermaids are real and she might also have a connection to them.
I understand and respect that not every YA book has to make girls actually think; nor do they have to be deep. But at the same time, they should at least have an original POV that make the read worthwhile. With Mer, we have nearly all the cliches: great misunderstanding, manipulation, cute boy love triangle, fantasy elements that make our girl a unique snowflake, mean high school girls, etc. etc. Add in a really silly villain (Ursula from The Little Mermaid, she ain’t!), a lot of very deus ex machina plot machinations, enough logic holes as to begger believability, and a really bland romance and this really fails in many levels. There’s nothing original here.
If written sympathetically, we might have gone along with the stilted dialogue and unnatural motivations/actions. But every character is so wooden and idealized as to be cardboard cutouts. Aryn herself is pretty unlikable, petty and rude to the love interest (which of course he doesn’t mind at all), and only the ‘bad’ people dislike her, of course. Is it terrible that I hated her ‘hot’ romantic love interest just because he must be pretty vapid to be ‘in love’ with her?
I did finish Mer – it wasn’t challenging though it was definitely unrewarding. I think a 10-12 year old can enjoy the book on their own terms, though. But more demanding readers will likely recognize the book for what it is: shallow and unfulfilling. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.