It's the 1970s and Elise loves books. She's better with paper than people and her best friends are penpals. She loves Lake Michigan and is fascinated by her family history associated with the water. Elise doesn't socialize much, she likes spending time on her own. Her mother and sister are different in this area. Elise's mother used to be a beauty queen and still longs for those days. She wants her daughters to be popular and thrive, but Elise isn't interested. When Elise's younger sister Amanda starts dating the boy Elise is in love with Elise could definitely use some good in her life. Fortunately Chiara has just moved to town. Chiara doesn't care what other people think of her, she's free, opinionated and wild and she's exactly what Elise needs to come out of her shell.
Elise changes under the influence of Chiara. She becomes more outspoken and finally finds her own style. When being at the carnival with Chiara Elise meets Miguel. He's a gypsy musician working there for a few days before traveling further. There's something brewing between them, but will Elise ever see him again once he moves on? What will be the influence of her new friends on her life?
The Mermaids of Lake Michigan is a beautiful coming of age story. I immediately liked Elise. She's smart and kind. She doesn't have much going on in her life, but fills her days with books. That changes when she meets Chiara. She's finally found someone interesting enough to become friends with. Chiara does whatever she wants and that is something new for Elise. She's a good girl, used to certain rules, but for Chiara there are none, which has a lot more appeal. Of course this new way of life can easily get out of hand and I was really curious to find out what would happen next. I found myself surprised numerous times, which is something I liked a lot.
Suzanne Kamata has written a fantastic story and I loved the vivid way she describes her main characters and their emotions. It wasn't difficult to picture why Elise would feel enchanted by Miguel. I liked the way their connection was being described and it made me anxious to keep reading from the moment they meet. Their relationship has plenty of layers and it's fabulously messy. Elise is growing up quickly and that process was amazing to watch. She has to make her own decisions and life isn't always fair, which is a fascinating theme for a story. I was mesmerized by The Mermaids of Lake Michigan from the very first page and absolutely loved this terrific story.
Elise Faulkner is more at home in the waters of her beloved Lake Michigan than on land where her beauty queen mom is always on her back about her lack of a social life; her sister is dating the boy of her dreams; her favorite penpal—the one who wrote about mermaids in Ghana—has gotten married and ended their correspondence; and no one's allowed to talk about her glamorous great-grandmother, the deep-sea wreck diver. Elise is biding her time with books until she can flee. But then crazy Chiara Hanover pops into her life, as does Miguel, a mysterious carnival worker whose dark future has been predicted by a gypsy.