Summary from Goodreads:
Everyone in the broken-down town of Chelsea, Massachusetts, has a story too worn to repeat—from the girls who play the pass-out game just to feel like they're somewhere else, to the packs of aimless teenage boys, to the old women from far away who left everything behind. But there’s one story they all still tell: the oldest and saddest but most hopeful story, the one about the girl who will be able to take their twisted world and straighten it out. The girl who will bring the magic.
Could Sophie Swankowski be that girl? With her tangled hair and grubby clothes, her weird habits and her visions of a filthy, swearing mermaid who comes to her when she’s unconscious, Sophie could be the one to uncover the power flowing beneath Chelsea’s potholed streets and sludge-filled rivers, and the one to fight the evil that flows there, too. Sophie might discover her destiny, and maybe even in time to save them all.
I have been out of touch with YA and children's literature lately for a variety of reasons but recently I had a conversation with a fellow book lover and she mentioned this one so I ordered it through interlibrary loan to give it a try.
Mermaid in Chelsea Creek is a mix of magical realism and modern folktale rolled into one, and manages to mix the two beautifully. The illustrations are simple but charming, and suit the storytelling well. Sophie is a likable heroine with a strong voice, even as she struggles to figure out just who she is and what her purpose in life is to be. There is a great deal of responsibility that is heaped onto her shoulders, and her struggles with it are what you would expect.
My only real issue with the book is that the point of view switches from Sophie to other characters without warning and can be a bit jarring until you get used to it. It isn't difficult to tell whose head you're suddenly in, but I would have liked a bit of an acknowledgement that there had been a change, even if it had been just an additional space between the paragraphs.
That said, I'm looking forward to book two, Girl at the Bottom of the Sea.