RIVER MERMAID

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The only child of a world-renowned sculptor mom and art dealer dad, 16-year-old Mercedes has already charted her own artistic future. But, unexpectedly denied admission to Wildwood Fine Arts School, her mom’s alma mater and Vancouver’s premier high school for the arts, Mercedes’ confidence evaporates. She abandons her artistic career dreams and ignores school art assignments. Her art teacher warns her she’s failing but believes that if Mercedes reengages with her art, she might have a chance of getting into Wildwood next year. Remaining conflicted about her career choices, Mercedes lets Sandra, her extravert BFF, talk her into pursuing her secret crush on her classmate Ellis. Despite an embarrassing start, romance ensues. At home, Mercedes’ fears about her workaholic parents (who both discount her mom’s worsening headaches) prove justified after her mom has a terrifying seizure. Struggling to get her artistic groove back, Mercedes turns to her mom for inspiration. Gracefully written, the novel goes just deep enough to illuminate the depths it frustratingly declines to explore, such as Mercedes’ fraught relationship with her (underwritten) father; her mother’s counterculture affinities; and above all, art itself. Beyond the fact that it’s her affluent family’s business, what motivates Mercedes to make art is a mystery. Most characters present White; Ellis is biracial (Japanese and implied White).

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