Learning to Swim
With a few exceptions, Lori Mason is a typical high-school girl. She has a long-time BFF to make trouble with. She plays soccer for her school’s team. And, like every other girl in Raven’s Cove, she has a crush on the hottest boy in town. Then, there are things that set her apart from her peers. Lori’s mother died the night she was born. She does not know who her father is. She is afraid of the water…
Raised by adoptive parents in a small town on Lake Champlain, Lori grows up believing she has aquaphobia, and for a good reason. Her parents scared her away from water to prevent what they saw when Lori had her very first baby
bath. For sixteen years, they kept a dark secret hidden from everyone, including Lori. But shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Lori finally mustered the courage to challenge her fears and take a bath, exposing her mermaid self to two friends.
Sworn to secrecy, Lori’s two girl-friends help her embark on a mission of self-discovery that includes tracking down an unknown father and learning about her deceased mother. Slowly, they uncover a world beneath Lake Champlain, and Lori finds that she is not alone. They also solve a long-standing mystery that not even the F.B.I. could crack — learning that Lori’s kind of mermaid is not the friendliest kind.
Lori’s sudden transformation from high-school sophomore to mermaid takes her to the depths of beautiful Lake Champlain. There, she meets Regina, a centuries-old mermaid who tries to draw Lori away from her life on land. As serene and peaceful as Lake Champlain appears on a sunny day, Lori quickly discovers that darkness and evil reign below the surface. She is torn between finding the answers she seeks and returning to the safety and comfort of the land she has grown up walking upon.
Despite the challenges of her new dual life, Lori maintains her focus. She is driven to find her father and to learn about the mother she lost on the night of her birth — in an accident that appears to be a callous act of cowardice bordering on homicide. While the other mermaids in the lake tempt Lori, she begins to uncover allies in plain sight all around her. She meets other LandWalkers, like her, who have abandoned the lake and adapted to living among mortals. Lori resists the tidal pull of the water. Her dedication to her landlocked human family and friends ignites a struggle between Lori and Regina — earth versus water.
As Lori’s newfound mermaid powers and abilities grow, so do her more banal instincts. On the night of the full moon, Lori’s friends intervene to protect Lori’s crush from a bloody fate. Between studying local lore and witnessing Lori’s mermaid rage, it becomes rapidly apparent to the girls that they have stumbled on the solution to a long string of unsolved missing persons cases in the Lake Champlain region. Unfortunately, they cannot call a tip-line to report the mythical creatures they suspect without exposing Lori for what she is.
Tensions increase between Lori the LandWalker and her underwater counterparts until the mermaids attack Lori’s former crush. Lori confronts Regina and finds that her powers are too weak to protect herself or her friends. When family and friends rally behind her, it reaffirms Lori’s trust in humanity. She draws on a renewed combination of strengths, vowing not to become the monster that Regina wants her to. She uses her mermaid abilities and compassion to reverse the deadly effects of the attack on her one-time boyfriend.
One clue and one mermaid power at a time, Lori begins to piece together a brief history that includes a one-night mother-daughter relationship. Though her father remains as elusive on land as the Champlain Monster does in the water, Lori receives a warning that someone else is looking for him, too. Regina is plotting her revenge against the man who stole her own mermaid daughter. Lori realizes success in her quest may not lead to a happy reunion and will put the father she has only dreamed about in mortal danger.
‘Learning to Swim’ is not the fairy-tale Little Mermaid. It is a dark and exciting interpretation that incorporates a variety of myths and fictional elements in a new and twisted underwater adventure. It is coming of age, young-adult fiction that focuses on the personal search for identity and the universal struggle between good and evil. With a hint of romance and a strong female protagonist, ‘Learning to Swim’ is entertaining and empowering. Falling somewhere between ‘Twilight’ and ‘Pretty Little Liars,’ ‘Learning to Swim’ reads quickly and easily on a fifth-grade level, but will be enjoyed by everyone.