Tagline: “Just when you thought it was safe….” Hey, good, a Jaws reference! That certainly won’t be lost on elementary and middle school audiences.
Premise: Billy and his younger sister Sheena are on their annual trip to the Caribbean with their marine explorer uncle Dr. Deep (yup!) and his assistant Alexander. It’s there that they find out there may actually be a mermaid frolicking about the island, and the good doctor’s been offered a million dollars by a Sea World-esque establishment to catch her for display in Faux Sea World. Billy, of course, is the one who stumbles upon the mermaid when she saves him from a shark, and Alexander, of course, is the one who sells her to some shady characters for twenty million dollars. As Alexander puts it, that’s simple arithmetic, and he’ll willingly ditch morals for money. Naturally, he never sees that money, as all the other mermaids team up to get the missing mermaid back. They get the mermaid, Dr. Deep turns down the money and pretends he’s never seen the girl, and somewhere in there, Billy sees a sea monster twice.
Creepiness factor: Not scary. Not at all. There are moments when you’re meant to worry about Billy’s livelihood, but this is a Goosebumps book, and that means his continued mortality is practically guaranteed. Also, mermaids? Not very threatening.
Signature Stine moment: They’re here in droves, from rhetorical questions and truncated sentences to weak similes and, I believe, some lazy foreshadowing. But I like this more traditional bit, in which we get perhaps too clear a visual of the representatives from the Marina Zoo:
“A man and a woman stood on the deck of the zoo boat [?]. They were both neatly dressed in khaki pants and button-down shirts. The man had a short, neat haircut, and the woman’s brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She carried a black briefcase.”
Do we really need an explanation of why they’re there, and what they’re doing? Because I’m pretty sure we already know everything there is to know about these guys.
Accuracy of title: Good enough. Billy gets into all kinds of hijinks when he takes a dip, running into fire coral, sharks, sea monsters, and the like.
Moral of the story: Seriously, stay out of the water unless you want to save a mermaid’s life.
Overall rating: 5/10. Decent, not great, and felt a bit too much like a story you’d see on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I did like the concept of mermaids using echolocation, but, well, mermaids are just a really weak creature upon which to base a story. I wanted more sea monster, personally. Maybe The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight will deliver that. Maybe not.