by Tera Lynn Childs

This is the third installment in Ms Childs’ Fins series which is not to be confused with Ashley Knight’s Fins Trilogy. In case you’re late to the party, here’s a quick sketch of what happened in book 1 –Forgive My Fins– and book 2 – Fins Are Forever:

Lilly is an 18 year-old mermaid living on land and attending high school. Her full name is Princess Waterlily of Thalassinia  and she was sent by her father, King Whelk, to live with her human aunt for a year and attend school in order to get an idea of how humans live. Terribly homesick, she’s about to hit the Bimini Road for Thalassinia when she gets a glimpse of this human boy and becomes fixated on him. Her crush is so bad that she begs her father to let her complete high school so she can be near this boy who barely knows that she exists. Here ultimate goal is to kiss the guy a month or so before graduation and drag him home to meet Daddy. Ms Childs’ vision of mer-life is not unlike that of Brenda Pandos in her wonderful Mer Tales series. All it takes is one kiss from the mer-person of your dreams and you’re on your way to growing fins. There is no telling how the crush might feel about this. After all, Lilly is just a bit of background noise to him.

Well, as luck would have it, Lilly kisses the wrong guy; The boy next door who has been trying to get Lilly’s attention via the time-honoured method of being annoying. Once this happens, Lilly’s plan is complicated by her need to de-bond with the boy next door whom she later discovers – much to her chagrin – that she really loves. The Thalassinian royal house is goverened by a set of obscure and arcane laws that seem to complicate  her life at every turn and she has to do a bit of mer jigery-pokery in order to keep her position as Princess and keep the guy that she really loves.

The whole story arc takes place in the weeks and month before graduation. This installment takes Princess Waterlilly up to and through graduation. In the meantime, she has to:

  1. Try & secure aid for a neighbouring kingdom suffering from the effects of global warming
  2. Deal with mer-sabotage of human oceanic endeavours in order to force them out of the water
  3. Avert a war between neighbouring kingdoms
  4. Throw cold water on a plan to attract human attention so that they may – hopefully – get the people on the surface to stop polluting the oceans
  5. Deal with being bitten by yet another arcane law. In this case, it’s the boy next door who does most of the suffering.

The usual cast of characters – both above and below the waterline – appear in Just For Fins. We are also reintroduced to Astria, Venus and Piper, a Greek chorus of young mermaids that reminds one of the three “popular girls” in the GEICO commercial.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Knjf3ABPc0E[/tube]

There is a good bit of character maturation in this installment as Lilly’s annoying younger cousin takes on a more rational and grown-up attitude. In other words, she starts to care about something other than herself. Amazingly, so do the girls in the afore-mentioned Greek chorus. Lilly’s human boyfriend Quince, demonstrates that he will take on almost any test in order to keep her.

The end result of all this is a very funny and sweet story. Young adult females – at least those into aquatic fantasy – will love Just For Fins. So will adults. As usual, Ms Childs does a wonderful job of telling her story with a mixture of humour, love, and – of course – drama. It is a joy to read a book with no dropped, misspelt or misused words. In fact there is only one place where this reviewer feels that the story falls short.

In the story, Lilly decides to forgo college because there are no courses that will help her as the future ruler of Thalassinia. Her human boyfriend has a construction job lined up after high school so he won’t need college either.

Don’t need college? Really?? While it is true that courses on mer-politics are usually not on the curriculum of most human institutions of higher learning, there are things like behavioural science, sociology, administration, international relations, etc. and etc. where the general principles could be applied to her unique situation. As for Lilly’s human boyfriend, will he want to be a construction worker for the rest of his days? Probably not. He may want to form his own construction company or focus on some of the more technical aspects of construction. In that case, some college courses would help him enormously.

Yes, Lilly and her boyfriend are just characters in a story but Ms Childs does her target audience a disservice by implying that education can be a waste in some particular situations. Education is never a waste and I would have hoped that Ms Childs would have included a subtle message to that effect in Just For Fins. It would have been much better for Lilly to say that she & her boyfriend had decided to take a gap year or two in order to get their feet on the ground before pursuing further education – whether general studies, technical or whatever.

Just For Fins appears to be the end of this particular story arc. Ms Childs does not, however, close her story with a sense of finality and there is the possibility that a new story line could begin by focusing on Quince’s adjustment to life with Lilly or their making a home both above and below the ocean waves. Throw in those community college courses that they’re going to need – whether Lilly believes it or not – and yet another arcane Thalassinian law to run afoul of and Ms Childs has the fodder for at least one more novel with perhaps a bit older target audience.

Whatever Ms Childs decides to do, these three novels are a wonderful adventure. If the series continues or not, this reviewer finds himself hoping that somehow, somewhere, there is a mermaid named Lilly.

My Rating:

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