ARC Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

May 12, 2014 Review 62 ★★★

ARC Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly
Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly
(Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository)

Publisher: Disney
Source: Publisher
Pages: 352
Release Date: May 6th, 2014
Series: Waterfire Saga #1
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
The first in a series of three epic tales set in the depths of the ocean, where six mermaids seek to protect and save their hidden world.

Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live the merpeople. Their communities are spread throughout the oceans, seas, and freshwaters all over the globe.

When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin’s arrow poisons Sera’s mother. Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin’s master and prevent a war between the Mer nations. Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world’s very existence.

I received this book for free from the source listed above in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


When I was younger, I loved mermaid books, movies, TV shows, etc. It’s fun to see YA tackle this genre so I was really excited for DEEP BLUE. Although it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, it was still enjoyable, but confusing.

From page one, we are thrown into this huge, complex world. There was obviously a lot of set up and planning that went into the world building, but it just drowns you. (pun intended) There are so many made up names and words and customs this one needs its own glossary. It was so overwhelming in the beginning I almost wanted to put it down in frustration. My brain hurt trying to pull all of this together and keep up.

best animated GIF

DEEP BLUE is best geared toward a younger audience. It has almost a Middle Grade feel, and I think younger teens will probably appreciate it more. It’s also fairly clean except for violence, there wasn’t really any romance even though the synopsis hinted at it. The focus here is definitely the friendship and growing bond between the mermaids.

There is a cliffhanger. It’s almost cruel, especially since the book was really picking up and the end was abrupt. That’s not to say that the rest of the book had a slow pace because I never felt bored. This book definitely left me wondering about a few things and I will be on the lookout for a sequel because this one was just setting everything up.

Rating Report
Overall: 3.1

62 Responses to “ARC Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly”

  1. Chyna @ Lite-Rate-Ture

    Hmm…not sure if I would bother picking this up. I also love mermaids, I’ve been a fan of Ariel’s since I was a kid and I still love her. I heard many negative reviews about Deep Blue so I think yours will be the last one to convince me that I’ll hate this. LOL I’m not into books without romance…friendships…um…not really for me HAHA Great short review!
    Chyna @ Lite-Rate-Ture recently posted…Novel Beauty: All The Truths That’s in Me by Julia Berry

    • Alise

      I’m a huge romance lover too. There is the opening for some to develop but I have a feeling the focus is going to be on the girls. It’s not too bad but if you aren’t into that, yeah. Thanks :)

    • Alise

      Yeah it’s a tough contradiction but that’s what it seemed like. Haha, same. I get frustrated really easily if I’m not understanding something. Hey, me too! :D

  2. Laura Plus Books

    I’ve seen this one around quite a bit! I think it was on tour or something maybe. I was never bothered to really read a review though. Didn’t even realise it was about mermaids haha! I don’t usually like mermaid stories but then again, I haven’t read that many. Sometimes I prefer books aimed to a younger audience just because they take less thinking power. I might have to wait a bit though. Cliffhangers will be the death of me! Brilliant review Alise!
    Laura Plus Books recently posted…Bout of Books 10.0: Goals + Updates

    • Alise

      Yeah it was! Haha, that sounds like something I would think. Mermaid books are either a hit or miss for me so this one was a surprise for being somewhere in between. It’s funny because although this one had a MG feel, it was extremely complex. Thanks :)

    • Alise

      I’m kind of the same way, they can easily head the wrong way. The few ones I’ve read besides this always seemed like the author forget they were writing a book that takes place underwater. Sure!

  3. Kirsty-Marie

    I don’t really like mermaid things that much, it’s interesting but yeah, not the thing I like to read. But, I did enjoy it, totally agree though, it was confusing. Haha, for the love of puns. It’s weird though, since mostly it was about the set-up, I wasn’t bothered that not much was going on, and I didn’t get bored either- and I get bored easily. Minus the info dumps, it was pretty fun. Now, let’s just hope the second goes better…
    Kirsty-Marie recently posted…Review: Cuckoo Song

    • Alise

      Understandable! I almost wish there were more puns because they were easier to remember than the made up words were. Like the currensea, at least that’s pretty self explanatory. Right?

  4. A Canadian Girl

    I’ve heard that this one is just okay and has more of a MG feel so it’s good to know that you agree with that. It’s also too bad that the worldbuilding is so overwhelming at the start. I was originally planning on reading this one but am pretty sure now that I won’t bother as I’m not too crazy about mermaid books to begin with. Most of them – other than Monstrous Beauty – have been either just okay or pretty terrible. Great review though, Alise!
    A Canadian Girl recently posted…Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

    • Alise

      I haven’t read Monstrous Beauty yet but now I’ll check it out! Yeah so much is thrown at you all at once, and then new stuff is introduced a lot and it’s just hard to keep up. Thanks!

    • Alise

      Haha! It’s kind of one of those books you just have to read and see for yourself, a lot of people have different thoughts about it.

    • Alise

      Sure! Yeah, exactly. This one seemed like more of a set up so I’m for sure curious about the next books.

    • Alise

      Yeah I’ve seen that too. And I’m right in the middle haha. The library is always a safe bet.


    • Alise

      Understandable, I was really frustrated and thought about putting it down too. It did get a better, though!

  5. Jen @ YA Romantics

    I’ve been so torn on this. I think this is the same Jennifer Donnelly who wrote Revolution, one of my favorite YA books ever. But I also thought this sounded like MG, and I’m not generally a fan of underwater stories. So…. I will probably read this at some point but it doesn’t sound like the perfect fit for me :(

    And I just did a post (below) on YA books that are kinda MG…
    Jen @ YA Romantics recently posted…Trending Thursday: YA Books That Feel Too Young

    • Alise

      Yep, same author! Books that take place underwater are hard to pull of anyway but this one had a tough beginning. I wonder if there will be more romance in the second book…

  6. Joy (Joyousreads)

    Seems like a lot of work, trying to enjoy this book. If I have to peek at a glossary every time I ran into some words pertinent to the world-building, then I may not get a long with this book.

    Meh. Mermaid’s not my thing, anyway. :)

    Thanks for a great review, Alise.
    Joy (Joyousreads) recently posted…Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

    • Alise

      That’s actually a great way to put it. There was just way too much all at once in this one. Haha :) Sure!

  7. Anya

    So I like middlegrade books a lot, but I just couldn’t stand the juvenile tone to this one for some reason…. I guess I like middlegrade that has young characters but doesn’t feel overly simplified and Deep Blue’s “punniness” just didn’t work for me ;-) I DNF’d at 100 pages D:
    Anya recently posted…Bout of Books Goals and Updates!

    • Alise

      I have no issue with middle grade either, I just prefer to know going into a book what audience it is marketed for specifically you know? Haha, yeah, I get that.

  8. Melliane

    ah yes this book. I haven’t read a lot of mermaid books but it always intrigues me and I was really curious. I loved the ideas of the world because we have a lot of stories but you’re right about some points too and I wonder how book 2 will be.
    Melliane recently posted…Interview with Felicity Heaton

    • Alise

      Yeah, there is a lot to build from now so that should be exciting! Same, I hope to see great things from the next book.

  9. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    I have this one already, so I’m sure I’ll end up reading it . . . sooner or later . . . probably later. I HATE cliffhangers, and I’m totally with you on this one seeming particularly awful b/c things were finally coming to a head. So yeah, I’ll wait and see how it goes. And if it doesn’t go well, I can always regift it to my 14 y.o. sister ;)
    Jessica @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Early Review: The Immortal Crown by Richelle Mead

    • Alise

      This is literally a cut it off right in the middle of something cliffhanger. Almost the climax, actually. Haha, nice! I actually think she’s probably more of the audience for this one, it definitely has a younger teen feel.

    • Alise

      I actually didn’t mind Of Poseidon xD But yeah, mermaid books are tough, I’ve disliked more than I’ve liked, for sure. Sure!

  10. Franny

    I think mermaids are one of those subjects one has to be very careful with. I only read about selkies, but I admit I started it with a lot of caution. Luckily for me, it was a good book and I enjoyed it, so I hope I’ll have the same luck for when I have my first encounter with mermaids.
    Glad you enjoyed it, though!
    Franny recently posted…Teaser Tuesday #24

    • Alise

      It definitely keeps your interest if you can get past the beginning confusion. I am! :) Thank you!

  11. Allie @ Little Birdie

    I have to admit, I’ve heard some pretty awful reviews of this (which make yours seem glowing in comparison lol).

    I’m really not a fan of younger YA books, whether their middle-grade or just have that kind of feel. I can’t identify with the characters and it just feels a little too immature for me, you know? I don’t know, maybe that’s bad to say! Doesn’t stop it being true ;)
    Allie @ Little Birdie recently posted…Series Books – How Long Is Too Long? {The Birdie Musings}

    • Alise

      Haha! I haven’t read too many reviews but now I’m curious ;)

      Yes, I know exactly what you mean. That’s the problem I had with this one, it was pretty hard to relate to.

  12. Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

    I’m with Allie – I’ve seen some pretty “meh” reviews on this one, so I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed it so much! The fact that it’s written for an “older” middle grade audience and yet has such a confusing makes me definitely skeptical.

    I feel most mermaid books are either completely, utterly terrible or are just plain old meh. At least this one wasn’t terrible in your eyes!

    Thanks so much for sharing Alise, and, as always, brilliant review! <3
    Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf recently posted…Say What You Will

    • Alise

      Yeah, I would have no idea how they would market this one because although it had so much (I wouldn’t even say world building) but made up words and names that didn’t even go anywhere, it was definitely for a younger audience. It’s hard to explain. Thank you :)

    • Alise

      Very true! I think I was so used to it I was almost a little semi-disappointed there wasn’t any in this one, but there was some setup. I hope that there might be a little once all the friendships have been developed.

  13. Romi Foster

    Excellent review, Alise! It’s frustrating that this book didn’t end up being what you had hoped it would, and especially so when the end of it was starting to pick up and ended so abruptly. If you end up reading the sequel, I hope it really works well and all the world building and detail in the beginning of this isn’t an issue there.
    Romi Foster recently posted…Plotting a Takeover: Character Buys 5.

    • Alise

      Thank you! It is! That’s exactly what happened and so it was a bit disappointing. Me too, I have high hopes for the second.

  14. Faye D'Social Potato (@kawaiileena)

    I’m glad you found some things to like in this book, Alise! I read a few other reviews from other folks and they are also complaining about the overly complex world-building. It seems like an overkill! I love good world-building, but not when it’s overwhelming, because it just becomes a wall of details (and mostly unnecessary at that!). It’s weird that it has a complex setting while still sounding like it’s for a younger audience. Would have thought they would make it more simpler! :O

    Great review! :)
    Faye D’Social Potato (@kawaiileena) recently posted…Review: The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer

    • Alise

      Me too! If I hadn’t I think it would have been a DNF will all the vocabulary. Right? It’s okay to have big plans with a world but at least break it down and introduce it in parts. Maybe kids have more patience so they understand it better? xD Haha. Thanks :)

  15. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    I’ve read similar reviews about this book. It seems mermaid books don’t get a break, huh? I still want to read it, but maybe I’ll wait until the next one so I don’t need to suffer that cliffhanger? Haha great review. And I loved the gif!
    Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms recently posted…Why I love Audiobooks

    • Alise

      Haha, no, they really don’t. I’ve only read a few good ones. Yeah! I would really recommend that, because it just cuts off. Thanks!

  16. Ashtyn

    Mermaid books tend to be really hit-or-miss for me. I’ve seen this one around quite a bit but I don’t know how much I’d like it. I really dislike feeling confused and frustrated with too much world building and I enjoy romance in the books I read! Nice review!!
    Ashtyn recently posted…Review: See Me

    • Alise

      Me too! It’s so frustrating when you feel stupid because you can’t wrap your head around a fictional world. Same, gotta have that romance :) Thanks!

  17. Olivia (Bookcomet)

    I have to agree that it had more of a middle grade feel. It doesn’t look like a middle grade book to me – if anything it looks a little dark. The slang, the slang, oh how I hated the slang. As for reading the sequel, I doubt I will, but I hope you enjoy it!
    Olivia (Bookcomet) recently posted…Review: Eleanor and Park

    • Alise

      Right? That’s why it’s so hard to pick a category where it fits into. Tell me about it, I hope the final version comes with a glossary. Thanks!

  18. Wendy Darling

    I agree completely that this book seems to have a younger reading audience in mind. Which is totally fine, but it means it’s just not for me! I ended up DNFing after a few chapters, I’m afraid, and I know my co-blogger had some rather middling feelings about it as well.
    Wendy Darling recently posted…All Four Stars: Blog Tour Sign-Up!

    • Alise

      I felt the same in those first chapters, the urge to put it down was really strong for me too. Yeah! I don’t even mind younger books but I wish I knew it was going to be like that before I began it.

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