Monday, January 5, 2015

Aquamarine, by Alice Hoffman

A few days ago, we reviewed Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine. So in keeping with the trend of reviewing adorable girlie books made into adorable girlie movies, we give you Aquamarine, by Alice Hoffman.

I'm not ashamed to admit I love both the book and the movie version of this sweet story. And, like most understated books adapted for the screen, you're probably most familiar with the movie version of the tale (or is it tail?). 

In the movie, a headstrong mermaid (named Aquamarine) washes up on land and is discovered by best friends, Hailey and Claire. Aquamarine has swam away from home with a very special mission: To find true love. She has three days to do this and, if she is unsuccessful, she must return to the sea and honor her father's wishes to marry a merman who she can't stand (like, ew!). The girls agree to help her meet and find love with Raymond, the cute lifeguard every girl on the beach is crushing on. In exchange, they'll get a wish...and they know exactly what they'll ask for (no spoilers here). Despite the time crunch and encounters with mean girl Cecilia and her mean girl posse, Aqua and Ray do get together. But, not unlike in the movie Frozen, the actual love that is so crucial to the plot isn't the romantic sort at all, but the kind one good friend feels for another. The ending is kind of bittersweet, but the audience feels good about it. It feels right. There's lots of bright colors, fun music, cute boys, cool fashion ideas (I've actually tried that T-shirt transformation idea & it works), and a villain you love to hate. In short, it's the quintessential teen girl movie.

That's the movie version.

But I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the book long before learning there was a movie adaption. Had I not... Well, I might not have been able to write so positively about the book.

The BOOK version of Aquamarine is much more understated than it's movie counterpart. And it's very, very different from the movie except for a few bare essentials (actually, I can understand why they changed it so much, because an exact interpretation of the book wouldn't be very exciting to watch). In the book, best friends Hailey and Claire, both 12, spend their days hanging out at a deserted beach club where they don't really do much of anything but hang out. At the end of the summer, Claire will be moving far away, and Hailey will be alone. Then, the day after a nasty storm, they discover a mermaid in the swimming pool of the club (like in the movie). The mermaid falls in love with Raymond, the bookish boy who runs the snack shop, and the girls agree to help the two meet. Claire and Hailey arrange a blind date for their friends, and the date goes very well (there IS some trouble with hiding the tail). Then the mermaid returns to the sea, Raymond leaves for college, the beach club closes forever, and Claire moves away as planned. It's a sweet story, clocking in at less than 100 pages. No mean girls, no wishes, no cool soundtrack, no flash or flare. And not nearly as exciting as the movie. But it has a certain quiet charm to it the movie doesn't possess. And, as with most cases, I actually prefer the book (if I had to pick only one).

If you haven't experienced either the book or movie, read the book before you watch the movie. Then let me know what you think.--AJB

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