American Mermaid

Book Review: American Mermaid by Julia Langbein

Strange things happen when a former high school teacher develops her debut novel into a screenplay. Read my review of American Mermaid.

American Mermaid by author Julia Langbein is a unique twist on the book within a book theme, and after reading the synopsis, I was super excited to dig in. But unfortunately, the more I read, the less interested I became. In fact, I only gave it two out of three stars (that’s a pretty low rating for me!) – read my book review.

What is the book about?

Penelope Schleeman, a consistently broke Connecticut high school teacher, is as surprised as anyone when her sensitive debut novel, “American Mermaid”—the story of a wheelchair-bound scientist named Sylvia who discovers that her withered legs are the vestiges of a powerful tail—becomes a bestseller. Penelope soon finds herself lured to LA by promises of easy money to co-write the “American Mermaid” screenplay for a major studio with a pair of male hacks.

As the studio pressures Penelope to change “American Mermaid” from the story of a fierce, androgynous eco-warrior to a teen sex object in a clam bra, strange things start to happen. Threats appear in the screenplay draft; siren calls lure people into danger. When Penelope’s screenwriting partners try to kill Sylvia off entirely in a bitterly false but cinematic end, matters off the page escalate. Is Penelope losing her mind, or is Sylvia among us?

American Mermaid follows a young woman braving a world of casual smiles and ruthless calculation, where she discovers a beating heart in her own fiction–a creature she’ll do anything to protect. By turns both a comic and fabulously insightful tale of two female characters in search of truth, love, and self-acceptance as they move between worlds without giving up their voices. []

My review

The concept of American Mermaid, with the main character adapting her book into a screenplay, was a fun twist on the book within a book concept. The story takes an exciting turn when strange things start to happen as the screenplay deviates more and more from the original book. This was a plot line I hadn’t seen before, and I was excited to breeze through the book. But, unfortunately, that was not the case.

I found the beginning of the book to be engaging and well-crafted, but as the book wore on, I became less and less interested in the plot and characters. I only finished the book because it’s difficult for me to leave a book unfinished these days. I really liked author Julia Langbein’s writing style and would definitely read more of her work, but American Mermaid was only ok, in my opinion. While this definitely won’t go down on my list of favorites, I encourage anyone who is interested to give it a try!