The other orphan girls at the Boston Home for Little Wanderers fantasize that they are secretly the long-lost daughters of wealthy families, or even of royalty. Hannah harbors no such dreams. What she doesn’t know, however, is that her heritage is the strangest of all. When she is packed off to live in dry landlocked Kansas and falls deathly ill, she begins to realize that she’s not like other girls.
Desperate, Hannah returns to Boston and finds a job as a scullery maid with the wealthy Hawley family. She begins to discover more signs of her not-quite-human nature, while at the same time dealing with the first stirrings of young love and with the Hawleys’ creepy oldest daughter (whose voice I kept hearing as Drusilla’s from Buffy). When the family travels to their vacation home in Maine, Hannah feels the pull of the sea even more strongly, and learns that she must make a difficult choice.
Many of the conflicts in Hannah come from the restrictions that surrounded women and the lower classes at the turn of the century. At first, this vivid portrayal of strict social etiquette reminded me a bit of Libba Bray‘s novels (though there’s a lot less of the Gothic here), but as Hannah progressed, I realized that it reminded me of nothing so much as Eileen Kernaghan‘s Wild Talent. Both Hannah and Wild Talent focus on working-class girls with unusual abilities making their way through a sometimes unwelcoming society. Both novels have a hint of romance but are primarily coming-of-age tales. Readers who like one will probably like the other.
Hannah started a little slowly for me, since I felt like the Kansas plot was too quickly and easily resolved, and almost could have been left out. Once the story moves back to the East Coast, though, it’s smooth sailing.
I did wish there had been more resolution to Hannah’s story. It appears that this will be a series, and I assume we will learn in later books what becomes of her, but my personal preference as a reader is for series installments to stand on their own even if they do have an overarching plot as well.
Still, this is a pleasant and often lovely read, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to a young girl. I will happily read further books in the Daughters of the Sea series.
Daughters of the Sea — (2009-2015) Young adult. Publisher: Daughters of the Sea tells the story of 3 mermaid sisters who are separated at birth by a storm and go on to lead three very different lives. Book 1 is about Hannah, who spent her early days in an orphanage and is now a scullery maid in the house of rich, powerful family. She is irresistibly drawn to the sea and through a series of accidents and encounters discovers her true identity. Hannah relizes that she must keep the truth a secretbut she also knows that soon she will have to make the choice — to be a creature of the land or the sea.