American Mermaid

Doubleday. Mar. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9780385549677. $28. FICTION/FANTASY
DEBUT Langbein’s debut is a satirical, fantastical novel within a novel. Penny Schleeman is an English teacher in a Connecticut high school who’s written a novel. She’s happy with the little extra money it gives her with which to pay the bills but doesn’t expect much beyond that. Then her book goes viral when an influencer posts a picture of the tome on his nightstand, and the Today show picks it up. Soon Penny has sold the rights to her book to Hollywood and quit her job to move to LA. But as the process begins and her book takes the first steps to becoming a movie, Penny is pushed by the studio to make it younger, sexier, and more action-packed. As the pressure mounts and mysterious accidents occur, Penny begins to fear that her fictional mermaid heroine, Sylvia, is taking revenge on those who want to destroy her story.
VERDICT Langbein explores what it means to belong, how the shape of identity can morph and change, and just how hard it can be to hold onto the core of your being when everyone around you is pushing you to change.
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