Title: September Girls
Author: Bennett Madison
Publication Date: May 21, 2013
Source/Format: Library / Hardcover, 352 pages
Opening Sentence: “The summer following the winter that my mother took off into something called Woman’s Land for what I could only guess would be all eternity, my father decided that there was no choice but for him to quit his despised job and take me and my brother to the beach for at least the entire summer and possibly longer.”
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When Sam’s dad whisks him and his brother off to a remote beach town for the summer, he’s all for it– at first. Sam soon realizes, though, that this place is anything but ordinary. Time seems to slow down around here, and everywhere he looks, there are beautiful blond girls. Girls who seem inexplicably drawn to him.
Then Sam meets DeeDee, one of the Girls, and she’s different from the others. Just as he starts to fall for her, she pulls away, leaving him more confused than ever. He knows that if he’s going to get her back, he’ll have to uncover the secret of this beach and the girls who live here.
September Girls by Bennett Madison is a different kind of mermaid story. I was, in fact, surprised to find out how human the overall story was. Sure, it was about mermaids, but it’s different in a way I can’t really even explain. But trust that it was wonderful.
To be completely honest I’m kind of tired of the general cultural idea of mermaids. They’re all gorgeous human torsos and shimmering tails. While some of that is the same in September Girls it’s also very different. It’s very obvious from the get-go that these mermaids are different. They’re more human than you would expect them to be—with hopes and wishes and things that distress them. You sort of can’t help but to feel bad for them. I know it probably sounds ridiculous, but in some respects it was really easy to empathize with the mermaids. While you never forget it completely while you’re reading it’s not hard at all to sort of let the fact that “the Girls” are not completely human slip out of your head.
Am I rambling about mermaids right now? I can’t help it. I really loved Madison’s take on what mermaids are. Obviously it’s been done plenty of times, so I’m sure it was a difficult task to handle, but it was done so well. I don’t think I’ll let his ideas and this story out of my head easily. It was so enjoyable and refreshing. Not like anything I’d ever read before.
I do know there’s some controversy surrounding this novel about it being sexist or something. I honestly think people are skewing the meaning of the novel in thinking that. I didn’t see a sexist story. I saw horny teenage(ish) boys acting accordingly. I did read a novel that had a lot of sex in it, but it certainly wasn’t the only thing there. It wasn’t sex for sex’s sake but an important part of the plot. If that’s sexist then so be it. It didn’t bother me, though.
Was September Girls my favorite book of the year? No. But I enjoyed reading it and truly appreciate Madison’s fresh ideas about mermaids and life in general. I’ll definitely be looking out for more work by Bennett Madison.