Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Best friends Emily and Levi are watching the sunrise on the beach early one morning when they notice a silver pickup in the sea. Both dive underwater, emerging with an injured creature — one that strangely resembles a member of the mythical merfolk.
Emily and Levi take the creature home where they luckily have a private beach and in the time it takes the creature to heal, they feed him and teach him to speak. Emily and Levi learn that the creature’s name is Kato and that he is not the only one of his kind. However, when Kato attempts to return to his family, he is violently rejected and instead, he goes back home with Emily and Levi. Whilst the humans — joined by Emily’s girlfriend, Charlotte — go back to school and work, Kato learns about their world from watching videos on an iPad.
The four of them create their own version of normalcy, giving Levi and Kato time to develop their relationship — until the bubble they have created is popped.
I chose That Doesn’t Belong Here for this week’s Judge a Book By It’s Cover reading challenge not because I liked the cover, but because I didn’t. I have never been a fan of cartoon-type covers on books, but actually, the childlike nature of this drawing captures Dan Ackerman’s story perfectly and I am grateful to the reading challenge for allowing me to find a book that was unique, interesting, and absorbing.
Ackerman’s writing style is basic, but effective. There are no convoluted descriptions of the sea, sky, or the longing glances Levi and Kato exchange, nor did I want that. That Doesn’t Belong Here is a story about outsiders. Emily is a lesbian who fails to fit in with her Hollywood parents; Charlotte is an autistic lesbian who struggles with social communication and change; Levi is pansexual, Jewish, and of a softer body type than the average gay romance protagonist; and Kato is — well, a gay merman. I absolutely loved the fact that Ackerman celebrates the characters’ differences, making them completely relatable, though perhaps my favorite aspect of this novel is the way in which Ackerman encourages the reader to be innocent. Merfolk are usually the subject of fantasy stories, but I felt my disbelief was suspended here and that there was nothing unusual about this romance between Levi and Kato in contemporary California.
Ackerman tackles important issues during That Doesn’t Belong Here, including Levi’s confused feelings and the consequences of his forced ‘coming out’ to his family, as well as the environmental issues that arise from Kato’s existence. Yet, I think Ackerman succeeds in provoking the readers’ thoughts the most when Kato is kidnapped. I do not want to say too much about this part of the story, but the effects of these events on Kato’s physical and mental well-being are distressing to witness.
The romance in That Doesn’t Belong Here develops from a friendship and everything that happens between Levi and Kato feels natural, despite the difference in their species.
That Doesn’t Belong Here taught me that I should never judge a book by its cover! This is a sweet novel and though there are several loose ends that I would like to see resolved, I found it enjoyable and I would recommend it to others.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Judge a Book By Its Cover Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a prize pack from Interlude Press that includes a signed, print copy of Not Your Villian by C.B. Lee, plus e-book copies of some of their award-winning books. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Judge a Book By Its Cover Week here, including a list of all the books in this week’s prize.
Thanks for an informative review, Kirsty; I found it interesting that you chose this book because you didn’t care for the cover. I’m happy to hear that you did enjoy the book. From the cover, I’d have guessed this was a young adult book, but it seems that is not the case.
I have the opportunity to revew the ARC of this book. To be honest I didn’t really care about the cover either. But I’ve read Ackerman’s first book and I liked the writing style. And of course, I found this story to be endearing, especially because of Kato.
Wow. I never would have even looked twice at this cover. I’m glad to hear from both you and Ami that it’s a worthwhile read, though. The character descriptions really appeal to me, and the story sounds like one I’d like. Thank you!
That’s a cool strategy for fulfilling this week’s challenge, and how great that the result exceeded your expectations!
To be perfectly honest, I would never have looked twice at this book if it didn’t have a solid (and positive) review attached. However, it’s going on my TBR immediately b/c of the variety of identities listed. Well, that, and also, MERMAN.
Well this certainly sounds different and picking a book by the fact that you don’t like the cover is also very different but very affective in your case 😉 Thank you for your review it has me intrigued but i’m still not sure if this is a book for me so it is going on my maybe shelve.
Interesting and rewarding story that could be overlooked because of it’s cover. Thank you for bringing this book to our attention.
Sounds sooo good and it would be my first merman book but when I’m way over my monthly book budget. So maybe I can squeeze it in next month. 😉
As far as the cover goes, this would have never caught my eye in a good way if I saw it in the book store. That’s why
I depend on your reviews. Thanks. 🙂
I agree with the other comments that I most likely would not have read this book based on the cover. Thanks to your review, I’m going to add it to my wishlist!
Interesting cover for sure. It’s sounds like a quirky read and Kato is a surprise character.
I was sold after reading the blurb but, as I’m a stunning-cover-bastard, (LOL!) I admit that the cover isn’t something I would have liked. But I do see myself reading this one once it comes out. ^_^
Ok so that’s just hit my Wishlist because I love books that are more about friendships then romantic love – so, okay I like them as well, it’s the reason I like YA still and the fact that it’s about mermaids in an added bonus
Thank you for the great review, Kirsty. I must recognise this book had not caught my eye, but after reading your review I’ll certainly add it to my TBR pile. I love characters who are, one way or another, a bit different, so this book fits the bill perfectly
Thanks for the review! I wouldn’t have picked up this book because of the cover but I’ll have to give a try after reading your review. It sounds interesting.
Thanks for the review. This book wouldn’t have caught my eye and not knowing the author at all, I probably wouldn’t have investigated further.
I agree with you; that is not a cover that would have made me want to read the book. Your review does a better job than the cover.
That cover is a turn off for me. But I follow book blogs so that I can get past that!
yeah, I’ll admit it was a turn off for me too. I can’t always get past certain covers, I’ll be honest. Glad Kirsty tried it though b/c it sounds good!
This is a great review! It’s definitely better than the cover 🙂
Thanks for the review, Kirsty. I enjoyed hearing why you selected the cover, and how it actually fits with the story. And boy, you couldn’t get a more diverse set of outcasts. I like the mix.
Sorry I’m so late replying everyone. I’m like a lot of book lovers and am a complete cover-whore 🙂 🙂 So much so that I’ll buy a book based on the cover and not read the blurb! That’s why I chose to take a different approach this week. If I’d seen this on the shelves I definitely would have passed by it! Thanks for all your great comments and if you try the book, I hope you like it!