Book Review: The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Published: 2018

Page Count: 309

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Sypnosis from Goodreads:

Deep beneath the sea, off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy. She longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice? What will it take for the little mermaid to find her voice? Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale is reimagined through a searing feminist lens, with the stunning, scalpel-sharp writing and world building that has won Louise her legions of devoted fans. A book with the darkest of undercurrents, full of rage and rallying cries: storytelling at its most spellbinding.

My Review:

Visually, this was utterly phenomenal, I love the ocean, and fairy tale retellings, and I felt like I could vividly imagine everything that was being written, from the fancy underwater realm where Gaia and her sisters’ live, to the murky, gloomy depths where the Salkas and the Sea Witch reside.

I utterly loved this book to begin witmhm kh, I loved Gaia and her sisters, though I found their actions childish at times, like some of them would be jealous of Gaia’s perfect looks and her voice, but its like Gaia really didn’t want to be the favourite daughter, bethrothed to the sleazy Zale (like ew, the scenes where he was mentioned made my skin crawl).

I admired Gaia initially, and her sisters, purely for putting up with their rat of a father! They had to abide by so many strict rules, to keep the image of being perfect daughters, I mean, they couldn’t speak unless spoken to, and Gaia was at the constant beck and call of her father, always having to sing even when she didn’t want to.

But in the back of her mind, she’s always craved more, which made me think of Ariel in the Disney tale. And who could blame her, having lived her life so far under such strict rules?

Especially longing to know what happened to her mother, who is never spoken about, the girls just are told to be quiet about her and that she died after apparently betraying the father. I was definitely curious as to the mystery element there and sufficed it to say, the climax was definitely surprising, like, I was gasping!

Between the start and the conclusion, Gaia went through some EPIC transformation, yet her actions in the middle kind of made me go, huh, really? I mean I understand WHY she felt like she had to do what she did, but it just felt a tad extreme to me? And I’m not elaborating further, because you’ll know what I mean when you read it!

The writing got so eerie and haunting and atmospheric at times, I loved it! But what irked me about this book was Oliver, I mean okay he couldn’t exactly understand Gaia, maybe things would have been different if he could? But I definitely didn’t think he was the dashing male that he was portrayed as. In fact I thought he was reckless and selfish but hey, he had suffered too. Also I really didn’t like Eleanor, she was just nasty.

And one other thing, I can see why its a feminist reimagining but I feel like the first half and second half were a contradiction? And I’m really going to leave it there, its best left unexplained and for the reader to discover!

Happy reading,



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