A New York Times Editor's Choice!
Named a Most Anticipated or Must Read Book of 2023 by Vanity Fair, Polygon, Buzzfeed, The Economist, The Millions, Powell's, The Guardian, Tor.com, Book Riot, Cosmopolitan, HuffPost, and The Boston Globe
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.
William Morrow / HarperCollins
United States; March 2023
United Kingdom; July 2023
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.
"Song’s debut is a strikingly original coming-of-age story... Full of contradictions, magnificently balancing and remarkably sustaining wonder with dread and magical realism with harsh reality, with a heartbreakingly beautiful and intensely uneasy tone, this is a story that will hold readers in its thrall. Ripe for discussion, Chlorine is a great choice for fans of weird, immersive, female-driven body horror by authors like Julia Armfield, Cassandra Khaw, and Carmen Maria Machado."
- Booklist, starred review
"A spiky, sapphic coming-of-age that embraces fantasy and horror to explore girlhood and its discontents."
- The Millions, Most Anticipated Books of 2023
"In Song’s disturbing and visionary debut, a child pushed too hard to succeed becomes a monster of her own making. Her mermaid’s tail is revealed in all its Cronenberg-esque glory. The body horror is striking, as is Song’s prose... It’s a singular coming-of-age."
- Publisher's Weekly
"Song’s body horror here somehow accurately mirrors the terrifying process of puberty in a coming-of-age story that’s not for the faint of heart."
- Buzzfeed, 2023 Books You Should Read
"This book was viscerally unnerving and I could not put it down."
- Sarah Gailey, bestselling author of The Echo Wife
"Song’s harrowing novel subverts the standards of merfolk lore — clamshell bras, underwater kingdoms, the love of a sailor or prince. 'For too long you’ve been inundated by G-rated fairy tales,' Ren says. She is not beneficent or seductive; she’s ruthless and mutilated."
- The New York Times
"Mermaids are having a moment in the cultural slipstream: Chlorine sees a high school swimmer go to drastic lengths to assume what she believes is her true form... The creatures have traded languid hair combing for power brokering on their own terms. It's a welcome tidal shift."
- Vanity Fair
"Probably one of the darkest and most twisted books over the year, this coming-of-age story of a young Chinese swimmer and her dream of becoming of mermaid is the stuff of both dreams and nightmares."
- Cosmopolitan, 30 Best Books of 2023
"I think I have been waiting my whole life for this book — for someone to write adolescence like the body horror it is, with all of the cultural specificity of being a Chinese American girl, simply bursting at the seams with sapphic longing. Jade Song’s writing is gruesomely lyrical, contrasting the sublime with the deeply disturbing. There were several points where this book almost made me throw up, and I mean that as a high compliment."
- Nicole Clark, Polygon
"Song sucks readers in with unforgettable language & explores our carnal desire of want. Reading it was like an out-of-body experience."
- Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful
"Jade Song's fierce and propulsive debut..."
- The Economist
"...An aching siren song, one that points us towards those uncharted dimensions of desire and identity that swim and shimmer, in and out of being."
- Trisha Low, Tor.com
"Like the scent of chlorine on one’s skin, this not-to-be-missed debut novel lingers.”
- Library Journal, starred review
"Chlorine is not for the faint of heart. Fierce and visceral, it seethes with rage and pain and the urgency of transformation. There are no pretty mermaids wearing seashell bras here, but readers open to sinking into darker waters will be captivated."
- Ann Claycomb, author of Silenced
"Fierce... so vivid... both beautiful and frightening. Chlorine isn’t just a coming of age story. It’s the tale of transformation from human to something wilder and more transcendent. It’s about love and longing and the willingness to do anything to become who you truly are."
- Richard Kadrey, bestselling author of Sandman Slim