I was up until 3am reading last night, and it is all L.K. Madigan’s fault.  L.K. Madigan and her darn mermaids…

I’ve been reading this gorgeous book for a couple weeks, little by little, because a) I’ve been really busy and b) I was so in love with the California Coastal setting that I wanted to savor every scene.  But last night, I hit a spot in the book that made it impossible to stop reading until I turned the last page in the wee hours of the morning. And I’m not even a tiny bit sorry. It was just that good.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my favorite books with magical elements begin solidly rooted in the real world with characters who feel as immediate as my neighbors.  NEED and CAPTIVATE by Carrie Jones are like that, firmly grounded in the Maine woods for pages and pages, so that when the pixies show up, you don’t even question it because the whole world is already so real.   THE MERMAID’S MIRROR has that same kind of perfectly introduced magic, only with a California beach town setting so vivid you’ll be able to smell the salt water while you’re reading.

When the story opens, Lena is about to turn sixteen. She’s grown up in a town full of surfers, loves swimming, and has been longing to try surfing herself, except her father has forbidden it.  He was almost killed at the surfing spot known as Magic’s years ago, but it turns out he’s not telling Lena the whole truth about his experience or about her mother’s death. Lena decides to have a friend teach her how to surf behind her father’s back.  It’s partly because she loves the ocean but mostly because of the mysterious woman she’s seen in the water at Magic’s. Could it really be a mermaid?  Secrets pile on top of one another in this gripping YA novel, and when Lena finally plunges into the world she’s wondered about, I couldn’t help plunging in right along with her.

There were so many things I loved about this book:  the surfing scenes that made me want to try it myself, the perfectly rendered beach town setting, Lena’s family, which is loving, scarred, and imperfect all at once.  And of course, the magic of the ocean.  I can’t tell you all the best parts because it would ruin the journey for you, so just believe me…it’s one you’ll want to take yourself.  Reviewed from an ARC I picked up at ALA and due out from HMH in October 2010.