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Book Review: Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown

Calder lives with his sisters in the depths of Lake Superior.  He is the only brother in his family of deadly mermaids.  In order to survive, the mermaids prey on humans, taking their energy and killing them as a result.  This summer, the mermaids have a target: Jason Hancock.  They’ve been searching for him since the death of their mother and have vengeance on their minds.  Calder’s job is to seduce Hancock’s oldest daughter, Lily.  Things go awry when he falls for Lily and his sisters get tired of waiting.

With the deluge of mermaid tales flooding (pun master!) the YA market these days, Anne Greenwood Brown’s debut novel hints at offering a fresh take on the paranormal genre.  Greenwood Brown is a strong writer.   A male protagonist, a genuinely sinister tone, and a plethora of murderous mermaids should make for refreshing reading.  Unfortunately, this one was kind of a disappointment, as it fell prey to the same traps of so many other paranormal romances.

Greenwood Brown’s novel starts out promising enough.  Calder makes to secret of the fact that he’s a bad, pretty creepy dude.  It’s not entirely his fault: he wasn’t born a merman, and in order to survive, he has to take energy from humans.  People die so he can live.  It’s just how it is.  The book doesn’t shy away from this darkness: his sisters are delightfully sinister (if more than a little one-dimensional).  Having a male protagonist in a genre that is often so defined by its weak, flat heroines is certainly refreshing.

Of course, that’s where the problem begins.  Enter Lily, daughter of Jason Hancock.  She’s so beautifully tragic or something.  I’m not sure, because she doesn’t have much of a personality.  Calder is instantly taken with her, and thus begins the book’s central dilemma: Calder must seduce her, but Calder has a crush on her, too.  What’s a merman to do?  Yawn.

What unfolds as a result of this perceived problem is standard, predictable paranormal romance fare.  While there are a few moments where it seems as though Greenwood Brown might subvert the tropes of the genre (like when Lily actually tells Calder to stay away because he creeps her out), the novel ends up falling back into the easy rhythm that makes these novels so frustrating (and kind of worrisome).  The two end up drawn to one another despite the fact that Calder has been stalking Lily and despite the fact that he’s a threat to her safety and well-being.  Calder becomes the reluctant hero.  Or something.

This is the first in a planned trilogy.  The second novel is rumored to be narrated by Lily, which might be interesting.  Though this novel didn’t work for me, I recognize the fact that it will for many readers.  Fans of the mermaid explosion might find a sinister cousin to their favorite titles of the past year or so.  Fans of titles like Hush, Hush or Hourglass might also like this one.  There’s nothing new here, but that doesn’t mean certain readers won’t want revisit the same tropes and cliches again and again.  And again.

Lies Beneath is out today.

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown. Delacorte Books for Young Readers: 2012.  Electronic galley accepted for review via NetGalley.



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