The Girl with the Mermaid Hair
by Delia Ephron

HarperTeen, 2010. ISBN 978-0-061-54260-2.
Reviewed by Penny Leisch
Posted on 05/03/2010


In The Girl with the Mermaid Hair, Delia Ephron presents a very dramatic inside view of a teenager's experience with parents who have marital problems and a father's infidelity. Ephron tells the story as seen through Sukie Jamison's eyes, and it's a tough reality to face when it's mixed with a huge case of teen angst over every detail of life, especially self-image.

Selfies (pictures of herself taken with her cell phone) are taken obsessively to be sure Sukie's appearance is perfect at all times. When she's not able to take a selfie, she uses any reflective surface available to verify that every hair is in place and nothing is stuck in her teeth. Her grandmother's full length mirror is a wonderful gift for a self-obsessed teenager, even if it's given to her because her mother doesn't want anything old in other parts of the new house. However, Suki's mirror eventually reveals difficult truths about herself and others. All the while, in the infinite wisdom of a family dog, Senor helps everyone face their personal truth.

Sukie's reaction to her mother's never-ending quest for youth and increasing dependence on alcohol is normal, as is her denial of the fact that her father's having an affair. As is often true in real life, the parents are less mature than the kids, and the kids get caught in the middle of their parents' messes. Still, the parental characters are a bit shallow, and it's hard to tell whether the author made a weak attempt to include some fantasy or if the "fantasy" passages are meant to be introspective. However, Senor, the dog, is great and has the best developed character of all.

From the standpoint of an adult reviewer and grandmother of six children, ages 8 to 20, the drama seems unrealistically high. As an experienced parent, I feel that Sukie comes across as a teen with a serious case of anxiety that needs professional treatment, way beyond teen angst. The reading seemed too easy for the targeted age range. This book and writing style may attract many young readers who don't have well-developed reading skills, however, and the simplicity will encourage those readers.

Ephron is an award winning author who also tackles many tough subjects, like the death of a parent and a teen contemplating suicide, in Frannie in Pieces. She's also a screenwriter and a realist, who tell it like it is in the world of teens today. She doesn't shy away from talking about drinking, drugs, sex, death, and religion. This book is definitely for girls over 12 years of age, and some parents will want to pre-screen the book.

Delia Ephron loves to read. Growing up, she allowed herself two cookies per page, and her favorite memories are of reading Anne of Green Gables, Homer Price, and Ballet Shoes, while eating chocolate chip cookies. She comes from a gifted and artsy family of parents, who wrote screenplays, and three sisters, who are all writers too. Ephron now lives in Greenwich Village with her husband, Jerome, and her dog, Honey Pansy Cornflower Bernice Mambo Kass. In her leisure time, she loves walking, cooking, and yoga. Visit her website.

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