Book Review – Jackson Pearce’s Fathomless

I had to write this for class. So I figured I might as well share it with y’all! Fathomless was a great book. I love everything I’ve read of Jackson Pearce’s work (although my sister told me Purity wasn’t that great). So I guess I should say I love all of her fairy tale retellings. AND THERE’S ANOTHER ONE COMING OUT THIS YEAR IN NOVEMBER. It’s marked on my calendar 🙂


When you swim in the ocean in water above your head, you get a sense of vastness, of something so much bigger than you that it could crush you and not notice. The title and cover of Jackson Pearce’s YA fantasy novel Fathomless conjure up disjointed adjectives and fragmented pictures that combine to create that awe we feel when we think of the ocean. There is so much ocean, and while we’ve discovered some of its secrets, Pearce tells us in Fathomless that we have missed at least one: Lo, a mermaid, or something like one, who faintly remembers a life before the sea and wonders about what happens to girls like her when they become old ones and float away on storm waves, because the only way to avoid that fate is to steal a human’s soul.

Then there is Celia, the youngest in a set of triplets. One of her sisters sees into the future, and the other sees the present. Celia’s power, to see the past, is useless until she and Lo save a boy named Jude from drowning one night and Celia sees into Lo’s past. So begins a tenuous friendship that dregs up Naida, the girl Lo used to be before she became a mermaid. But keeping their friendship a secret from the other mermaids and Celia’s sisters isn’t easy, and it becomes dangerous when Lo and Naida began to battle between staying in the ocean and returning to an old human life.

Fathomless is no pink and glitter Disney princess story, but rather a psychologically dark and haunting tale about a girl who will kill to return to her old life. Lo and Naida combine to make a bipolar character who is as violent as she is desperate to claim the soul of Jude, who believes Celia saved him alone and doesn’t know Lo exists. Celia struggles to deal with her own problems, which include her guilt over lying to Jude and trying to hide Lo’s secret from her triplets.

Throughout the novel, the theme of sisterhood ties together Lo and the other mermaids, Celia and her sisters, and even Lo and Celia. With five sisters of my own, it’s impossible not to resonate with the intricacies, jealousies, and hierarchies that exist between the sisters and the way they rally together when they’re needed.

The tightknit sisterhood in the story reminded me of Robin Benway’s The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June, an urban novel of three supernatural sisters and one of the exceedingly rare young adult novels whose main focus is family rather than romance.

Pearce’s novel connects back to the two companion novels in her Fairytale Retelling series, Sisters Red (based on Red Riding Hood) and Sweetly (based on Hansel and Gretel), but is able to stand alone. Pearce has her own unique folklore woven into the story, and her designs on the old mermaid legend bring plot twists out of the woodwork.

In the beginning, Fathomless is not an easy read. Lo and Celia are aloof characters, and at first Lo is struggling to hold onto her humanity, so they are difficult to connect with. But as the story progresses and Celia becomes invested in Lo, Lo becomes invested in Celia, and you, the reader, become invested in both girls, the pace quickens towards an exciting finale and open ending that will leave you wondering even after you close the back cover.

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