The Unraveling of Mercy Louis Review
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The teen years are never easy—juggling school, friendships, and relationships while trying to plan for the future. But in author Keija Parssinen’s coming of age novel, The Unraveling of Mercy Louis, the girls in one small Southern town find themselves dealing with more than their share of teen drama.

The story begins on the last day of Mercy Louis’s junior year of high school. As other kids in the small town of Port Sabine, Texas, are looking forward to lazy days and trips to the beach, Mercy is planning a summer of training and discipline—because she has just a few more months to earn the basketball scholarship that will finally get her out of town.

But then a shocking discovery at the convenience store near the school shakes up the entire town. And as Mercy’s ultra-religious grandmother begins preparing for the end of the world, Mercy finds herself haunted by her past—and the mother she never knew.

Parssinen tackles a lot in this young adult read. Part mystery, part coming of age drama, with touches of the unexplained thrown in for good measure, it offers two different teenage girls’ perspectives on everything from friendship and family to art and basketball.

It’s definitely an artistic novel, too, written with an elegant style and a haunting tone that makes the story feel almost post-apocalyptic, despite the fact that it takes place in 1999. But Mercy’s world isn’t necessarily one that will pull readers in. It’s dark and grim, filled with suffering and grief and bitterness that only grows as the townspeople set out on a mission to find the mother of an abandoned baby and bring her to justice.

While the story does feature many of the elements of the average coming of age novel—friendships, relationships, arguments with parents and parental figures—it seems to pile on more and more topics until it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all. And, as a result, the messages woven into the story feel underdeveloped and confusing. In the end, mysteries go unsolved, strange occurrences go unexplained, and it all comes to an abrupt halt that will most likely leave readers wondering what they missed.

The Unraveling of Mercy Louis is certainly a striking and ambitious novel about growing up and moving on. But it’s just a little too ambitious—and, instead of a memorable coming of age story, it’s heavy and complicated and generally perplexing.

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