Title: Mermaids in Paradise
Plot Type: Romantic, Satirical Fantasy
Generally, Deb finds herself in the middle. "Chip and Gina were angel and devil on my shoulders, basically, and there were things I loved about them both." Chip's earnest friendliness and openness are easy and attractive, but sometimes wrong. Gina's judgment and us-or-them mentality are wearing, but sometimes convenient and good for a condescending giggle. As Deb makes her way through a very familiar series of wedding-related formalities, she changes her viewpoint multiple times, sometimes following Chip down the path of brotherly love, but sometimes allowing herself to be drawn into Gina's darkly ironic perspective.
Although the murder mystery is entertaining, in a TV-dramedy kind of way, it is Millet's layered analysis of American culture that truly made the book compelling and memorable for me. Deb is a skeptical, opinionated, insightful young woman with limited real-world experience outside of coastal California. She changes her stance on issues by rationalizing her way from one side to another (just as most people do, except for those on the left or right fringe). Particularly fascinating is the way she sums up a truth about modern culture in a humorous discussion of how Americans have changed their view of crime-solving. "People didn't believe in a lone sleuth these days; they didn't believe one man could solve a crime. Or one woman, either." The hard-boiled private detectives of old "had been replaced by highly efficient teams of police officers with integrity, brilliant forensics specialists, earnest lawyers, and super-efficient computers. It doesn't matter to the TV-watching public that in real life America has basically none of the above."
Late in the book, when the religious hard-liners of the Heartland hear about the mermaids through Tweets and declare them to be offspring of Satan or the consequences of bestiality (or worse), Deb takes a look at the flood of hatred on social media and worries about virtual blood lust. "The virtual world was even worse than the real one, when it came to humanity. To look at screens like these, you'd think there was nothing left of us but a pile of pixilated ash. We were a roiling mass of opinion, most of it mean. Here, we sat at civilization's technological peak, and what we chose to do on that shining pinnacle was hate each other's guts."
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