Summary: Jade’s first period brings on an unexpected, additional change – the appearance of a mermaid’s tail. The even bigger surprise is that Jade’s dad expected this transformation might happen. Turns out that the mother Jade thought had drowned was actually a mermaid herself, held captive by rogue mer-people stuck in the fresh water lake as punishment for various crimes. Jade finds her life becoming quickly complicated, especially when keeping the mermaid issue a secret puts her at odds with her best friend Cori and a former crush of hers comes back to town looking better than ever. Her first priority is rescuing her mother from her watery prison, but if she can figure out what triggers her mermaid tail, that would be good too.
Number of Pages: 206
Age Range: 13-14
Review: A lighter, adventurous and imaginative read, Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings by Hélène Boudreau is the first in a series for young female teen readers. Jade finds herself in a completely unexpected situation, falling asleep in her bath and waking up to find she has a mermaid’s tail that disappears and reappears under specific circumstances.
It turns out it’s a genetic thing, because her mother is a mermaid too. And because mer-people are considered to be the stuff of legend, it’s kind of challenging to find out real information about being a mermaid.
There were a couple of things I particularly enjoyed about Boudreau’s story. The first is the relationship between Jade and her father. Her mother’s presumed death brings them together, and no matter what, Jade’s dad has her back. When faced with unfamiliar situations like Jade getting her period or when she suddenly has a mermaid’s tail, he dives into research on the topics so he can support her as best he can. Jade, in turn, values the relationship she has with her father, knowing with certainty that he will help her out no matter what.
The second is Boudreau’s inclusion of Jade getting her first and second period. Perhaps it sounds odd, but for something that is a natural part of a young woman’s life, writing about menstruation is noticeably absent from teen literature. This absence means when I do read a book including discussion or experiences with periods, it stands out. Instead, the opposite should be true – books that don’t include it should stand out, and books that do should be common place. Kudos to Boudreau for covering an oft neglected topic that is a vital part of a girl’s coming of age.
“Rubbing my eyes, blinking away the sting, trying to get out, shocked by what I saw breaking through the surface of the water.
Then, I was yelling for Dad, he was crashing through the door.
And I had a tail. A shimmering, scale-covered, slimy, wet tail.
Freak-of-nature suddenly took on a whole new meaning.” – Jade from Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings by Hélène Boudreau, page 40