The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

Published: 03. May.2018

Genre: YA | Fantasy | Retelling

Pages: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

 What is it about?

The Surface Breaks Deep beneath the sea, off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy. She longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice? What will it take for the little mermaid to find her voice?A  feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid is a story about a mermaid and her longing to visit Earth for her love towards Oliver and to find out more about her mother’s disappearance. The world building has been given a patriarchy setting that unravels into Gaia standing up for her sisters and the mermaids in the sea.





I loved the cover and the feminist take on the Disney version of the fairytale I watched and loved as a Kid. Even though the concept of exploring misogynist and sexist culture is brilliant, I would have preferred a less preachy perspective and complex gray male characters instead of all of them being evil and dumb pricks.
I loved how the author flirts with the insta- love practice of our generation and also proves how completely ridiculous the concept is.

It was annoying to be told about the feminist issues rather than shown them, which made me come to this decision that I am not really fond of the author’s writing style.

However, I do love the concept.

We are women. And women are warriors, after all.”


As a retelling, it doesn’t stray much from the original story. However, there is an addition of Rusalkas which initially made me feel that wasn’t needed since they are from two different folklore. However, looking back I guess they did help in shaping the story and help in deliver the message.

I wasn’t much keen of her life on land, as much as it fascinated me to read about her under water scenes. I would love to see sister bonding instead of jealousy. The author tried to add a hint of diversity with Nia’s character  and physical abuse too which I feel could’ve been portrayed  better , making it a “Meh” read for me..


Gaia, was rebellious and curious about knowing more above the surface. She is definitely a little naive and doesn’t really think before doing anything. She wasn’t really annoying , but she had her dumb moments that made me cringe

“I’ve observed. All the little things that I have ignored about this man, in order to make the narrative of true love and destiny fit.”

Sea Witch, or Ceto was my most loved character in the entire story. A portrayal of how society reacts to different woman and how it is assumed it is more important for a woman to be pretty than intelligent.

Powerful women are often threatening to insecure men.”

I sure do recommend to read this book for the sole purpose of  having a feminist retelling for the famous Disney fairytale – The Little Mermaid. If you have grown up watching Disney movies, you will agree it does make up for most of our childhood fan girl moments.

Q: Who are some of your favorite fairytales?
A: I love Aladin and Beauty and the Beast.

Rating: ★★ ⍣