I’m working on a YA book about mermaids. And so, in due diligence, I’m also buying and reading a whole bunch of them. But they suck. Even the mainstream, bestselling ones by famous authors that have hundreds of reviews. The problems, mostly, are these:
1. Recycling the same scenes and plot points.
2. Flat, unbelievable characters.
3. Stubborn protagonist who gets pissed off and wants to fight all the time.
4. Absolutely no attempt to make mermaid-life biologically plausible.
5. Not much really happens (no big stakes).
6. Most of the big stuff is revealed in the first chapter or two: here are some mermaids, protagonist learns she’s a mermaid, then learns how to be a mermaid (while falling for the sexy main love interest).
7. No love triangles: I know, they’re overdone – but in real life girls usually have several guys that they like and they have to make hard choices. You see them in lots of YA books. But in the mermaid romance books, it’s usually more of a “girl is kidnapped into a mermaid fairytale full of coolness and intrigue, surrounded by sexy mermaid people – who have lots of money – living in an awesome beach house.” It’s basically a lot of wish fulfillment and fantasy, with a gloss of romance and maybe a tiny bit of danger (but usually not serious, life threatening, world-ending danger).
In short, these mermaid books just feel light and friendly. Even silly. Lots of humor and gentle ribbing and witty comebacks. Which gives me some hope for my book, which feels more epic to me: the tension and drama builds slowly. There is intrigue. There are lots of complex bad guys and real character motivation. There is some credibility to the way I’ve organized mermaid biology.
I know, however, that writing a book for a specific genre and type of reader, when you don’t like the other books in that genre, is presumptuous. If readers really love those other books, they may not like mine at all. Maybe readers who buy mermaid books at all are less demanding. Maybe they don’t want a deeper, darker, more tragic, more epic mermaid romance.
And, I didn’t mean that the other mermaid romance books “suck” – that’s too strong. They may be brilliantly written for their target audience. Mine actually has a lot of accidental similarities (which is inevitable when you’re creating a YA mermaid romance book) but after reading them I’ll change mine so there isn’t anything too similar.
And unlike other genres, there really isn’t an oversaturation of mermaid romance books. So I’m excited to put mine out there and see how people like it.