Trigger warning for suicide.
Books about suicide are hard books to review. On one side, discussing mental health and suicide is important to help those dealing in the aftermath of such tragedies. But on the other, it can be harmful to those struggling to read something that dives so deeply into the heartache and pain of such struggles. While Coral by Sara Ella attempts to use a fairy tale retelling to discuss mental health, it never quite finds cohesion between the two.
Under the sea, Coral fears she’s been afflicted with the Disease. Carried by humans, the Disease imposes emotions upon its victims, causing them to do unspeakable acts. Above the sea, Brooke Jordan has nothing left to give. Abandoned and forgotten, she joins a group therapy home in hopes of finding a second chance at life. And Merrick, San Francisco’s golden boy, longs to escape from his controlling father and protect his sister from harm. When their worlds collide, everything changes.
Coral is a confusing book. The story is told from three points of view, and it takes most of the book for any connection between the three to become clear. Normally, I don’t mind when books have multiple points of view, but it’s frustrating when I can’t figure out why I’m reading about three separate characters. This frustration did prompt me to keep reading so I could learn some answers, but I wouldn’t necessarily consider that a good aspect. The way the three points of view come together eventually is well done, but it just takes too long to get there.
In addition, this is supposed to be a retelling of “The Little Mermaid,” but it has almost nothing in common with “The Little Mermaid “aside from Coral being a mermaid and there being a sea witch. It’s more along the lines of an “inspired” story, but I never thought the fairy tale aspects mattered once I reached a certain part of the book. The story could have worked just fine without the retelling element.
The highlight, however, of the story is how Sara Ella handles suicide and mental health. She doesn’t shy away from discussing it with raw, deep feelings. At times, this book came across a lot darker than I expected, but it also hinges on a lot of hope for those who are survivors of suicide or attempts. While reading, though, I never quite understood who the target audience was supposed to be. Yes, we need books that address mental illness and suicide and help people, but this book seems like it might do more harm for someone with suicidal thoughts than good.
While some aspects were a bit predictable and “The Little Mermaid” retelling angle didn’t pull through for me, Coral has the potential to be a powerful story in the right hands.