Here’s a riddle for you: What covers most of the Earth, is wet, and secretly wants to destroy humankind? If you answered “the ocean,” we have ourselves a winner. I’ve loved the ocean ever since I was small, but I love it the way you might love a particularly mean family pet or Australia: with the knowledge that it doesn’t love me back and could really mess me up if it felt like it.
Viewed objectively, the ocean is absolutely terrifying. It’s filled with strange beasts and riptides, periodically spits out massive waves, and will one day rise and sweep us all away. The tourism industry may have tried to downplay its dangers, but authors know better. In these 7 YAs, they give us the lowdown on the sea’s seedy underbelly, where monsters lurk and mermaids aren’t as innocent as we once believed.
Deep Blue, by Jennifer Donnelly
Serefina is a mermaid who will some day become the ruler of her people. Sounds great, except for the dreams she’s been having, about an ancient evil returning to cause chaos. After her mother is shot with an arrow by an assassin, Serefina embarks on a quest to unite with mermaids across the mer nations, to prevent their world from falling apart. Apparently the mer world is a rougher place than The Little Mermaid led us to believe.
Undertow, by K.R. Conway
Eila mysteriously inherits a million-dollar house on Cape Cod, but that’s pretty much where her luck runs out. The kids at school are snotty, her crush is hiding a huge secret, and, oh yeah, she’s inherited secret powers from her grandmother and now forces of evil are after her. Maybe she should’ve just stayed in Kansas.
September Girls, by Bennett Madison
At first it seems like a dream: Sam goes to a beach town and immediately begins getting hit on by a ton of gorgeous girls. He meets one in particular, DeeDee, who he begins to fall for. But then he starts wondering why all of these girls seem so wild about him. Maybe it has less to do with his charm and more to do with a strange curse placed on all the girls in town…
Inland, by Kat Rosenfield
Callie witnesses her mother drown as a child, and is forever after plagued by terrible breathing difficulties that leave doctors puzzled. Her father tries to keep her away from coasts, but his dream job eventually brings the two to the Florida shore. Callie’s illness disappears, but she begins to feel the same inexorable pull to the sea that once claimed her mother’s life.
Of Poseidon, by Anna Banks
Finally, we get to hear from a merMAN! Galen, the prince of Syrena, must travel above water to find Emma, a girl human girl with an unusual gift. She can communicate with fish, and Galen needs her help—and her link to his underwater world may be even more powerful than either of them imagines. But good luck convincing a normal teenager she’s the key to saving an entire underwater kingdom.
Wake, by Amanda Hocking
I am officially convinced that mermaids are actually terrifying. After spending a night partying with three beautiful newcomers to town, Gemma wakes up feeling…different. She’s faster, stronger, and more beautiful than she was before, but there are some terrifying side effects that come along with her new self as well. Gemma will have to choose between staying in her world or following her creators into a new life.
The She, by Carol Plum-Ucci
Evan lost his parents to a boating accident when he was young, and the last thing he heard from them was their frantic mayday cries and a terrible shrieking in the background. Locals believed they were killed by The She, a sea monster that rises up to consume sailors if angered. Now 17, Evan wants to uncover the real secret of his parents’ disappearance. Were they smugglers faking their deaths to escape the authorities? Sailors lost to a storm? Or victims of a very real sea monster?