A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Maggie Tokuda-Hall's The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea is a fantasy adventure that explores the issue of imperialism and involves a romance between a gender-fluid pirate and an imperial teen noblewoman. It has violence and adult themes that make it for teens, not kids. Violence includes slitting throats, a graphic description of waterboarding, implied rape, mention of sexual slavery, cutting off a finger as punishment, a brutal lashing, threats of poisoning, mass execution, and a gunshot to the head, often with descriptions of blood and detailed descriptions of pain. There are a few sensual kisses and light making out without graphic detail or mention of body parts. A couple of characters are alcoholics with negative effects described. People drink mermaid's blood and hallucinate and lose memories. Strong language is rare (including "s--t" and "ass"). Gender identity is a prominent theme, with positive representations of a character who is both genders and another who is genderless.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
THE MERMAID, THE WITCH, AND THE SEA tells of child orphan Flora and her brother Alfie, who know they won't survive another cold winter on the streets. So they beg their way onto the crew of the Dove, where they know life will be hard, but at least they'll eat. And they're not wrong. To keep herself safe from the worst of the crew members, Flora proves her mettle as a man and becomes Florian. One day the newly boarding passengers include Evelyn, a young noblewoman on her way to an arranged marriage. Florian is assigned to guard Evelyn, and they strike up a friendship that deepens over the course of the long voyage. Little do they imagine how their love will change their fates, or how the help of a mermaid, a witch, and even the sea herself will be needed before they'll be free to live and love to the fullest.
Is it any good?
This debut novel by Maggie Tokuda-Hall is epic, poetic, beautiful, romantic, adventurous, ruthless, dangerous, even murderous. Definitely not for kids. Tokuda-Hall's solid, rhythmic, sometimes lyrical writing lifts The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea beyond a rip-snorting, piratical adventure into a moving story about change, love, loss, recovery, and more. Teens especially will relate to Flora and Evelyn as they navigate all kinds of transitions, both physical and spiritual, from child to adult, from naivete to knowing, from innocent to guilty, from girl to man.
The intriguing, well-paced story keeps the pages turning. So does the colorful cast of characters, both good and bad, as they navigate a rich, vast, and vividly imagined world. Violence and adult themes make it best for high schoolers and up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea. How much is too much? Do you react differently to reading about violence than you do to watching it in videos, games, or other media?
What are Flora/Florian's and Evelyn's character strengths and weaknesses? Are they positive role models? Did you like them?
Why is it important to have diverse representation in books and other media? Why is it important to have a broad understanding of all kinds of people?
- Author: Maggie Tokuda-Hall
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Pirates
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Publication date: May 5, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 12, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.