I recently finished CHLORINE after a really really long reading slump and it was fantastic! I wrote a review sharing some of my thoughts about the book, so let’s begin 🧜♀️
Chlorine by Jade Song
In the vein of The Pisces and The Vegetarian, Chlorine is a debut novel that blurs the line between a literary coming-of-age narrative and a dark unsettling horror tale, told from an adult perspective on the trials and tribulations of growing up in a society that puts pressure on young women and their bodies… a powerful, relevant novel of immigration, sapphic longing, and fierce, defiant becoming.
Ren Yu is a swimmer. Her daily life starts and ends with the pool. Her teammates are her only friends. Her coach, her guiding light. If she swims well enough, she will be scouted, get a scholarship, go to a good school. Her parents will love her. Her coach will be kind to her. She will have a good life.
But these are human concerns. These are the concerns of those confined to land, those with legs. Ren grew up on stories of creatures of the deep, of the oceans and the rivers. Ones that called sailors to their doom. Ones that dragged them down and drowned them. Ones that feasted on their flesh. Ones of the creature that she’s always longed to become: mermaid.
Ren aches to be in the water. She dreams of the scent of chlorine–the feel of it on her skin. And she will do anything she can to make a life for herself where she can be free. No matter the pain. No matter what anyone else thinks. No matter how much blood she has to spill.
CHLORINE is a book that completely shook me apart. The story follows the journey of competitive swimmer Ren Yu, who at a very young age convinces her mother to let her take swimming classes because of her fascination over mermaids from different cultures.
Fascination turned to fixation, and fixation to obsession. Chlorine portrays the raw and painful imagery of growing up in an extremely intimate way. In my reviews I usually don’t comment on “how” the story is told, but the way the chapters were structured and the tone of the narration really furthered how self-contained and intimate the whole book was.
While Chlorine is an ode to the various mermaids Ren saw herself in, my personal interpretation of the mermaids were as a symbol of perfection, but also as a symbol of breaking free. Perfection because as long as Ren was human, and swam in chlorine infested waters she could never reach her true ‘goal’. But as a mermaid she could achieve so much and more.
Aside from Chlorine being a story that is both horrifying and beautiful what spoke to me was the idea of something defining you. Swimming to a large extent was a key part of Ren’s identity, she wanted to be, she needed to be a perfect, she was a mermaid. Sometimes when we love something that liberates us so much we tend to forget how not taking a step back inevitably leads to burnout and pain.
AND ALSO!!! Can I just say the sapphic longing and yearning was awesome and I love Ren and Cathy so much, especially how each of their characters plays a key role in one another.
I can go on and on about this book honestly but I think I’ll conclude here HAHA. Chlorine is a coming of age story written as horror exploring multiple facets such Asian American girlhood, sapphic longing, the perilous journey of growing up all beautifully presented via terrifying yet poetic imagery.
Before I end, consider checking out the playlist I made, featuring 沉醉 by Faye Wong as the first track 🧜♀️
RATING: Highly Recommended!
Is this book for you?
CONTENT WARNINGS: Racism, misogyny, self-harm, eating disorders, homophobia, depression, and sexual violence.
PERFECT FOR: Fans of The Pisces and The Vegetarian. Enjoyers of Literary fiction, coming of age stories with a bit of horror.
THINK TWICE IF: If you don’t enjoy books that contain elements of horror
GENRE: Adult, Literary Fiction.
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Did you enjoy the review? Have you read CHLORINE? Comment below and chat with me!!
i adore this review! i’ve been meaning to read this book for a while but now i’m even more motivated to read it! “sometimes when we love something that liberates us so much we tend to forget how not taking a step back inevitably leads to burnout and pain” will haunt me for a while. beautiful review!
Kashvi @ Misty Realms
ahh thank you so much!! i’m glad you liked the review and want to read CHLORINE even more now <3 lmk your thoughts once you finish it