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 is 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. Creatures that called sailors to their doom. That dragged them down and drowned them. That feasted on their flesh. The creature that she’s always longed to become: the 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.
Jade Song is an artist, art director, and writer. Their stories and essays have appeared in Teen Vogue, Electric Literature, and various literary magazines. Chlorine is her debut novel.
“Song’s harrowing novel subverts the standards of merfolk lore — clamshell bras, underwater kingdoms, the love of a sailor or prince.”
— New York Times Book Review
“Ren Yu is a fierce young woman who’s dreamed of mermaids ever since she can remember—dreams so vivid that the first touch of water in a swimming pool alters her life forever, sending her down a path that’s 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, New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim series
“Ms. Song is good on the growing pains of young adulthood…[This is] a book that enlivens its coming-of-age yarn with a touch of mystery and a twist of myth.” — The Economist
“Like the scent of chlorine on one’s skin, this not-to-be-missed debut novel lingers.” — Library Journal (starred review)
“A notable debut that marks a distinctive career to watch.” — Kirkus Reviews
“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 the forthcoming Silenced
"This book was viscerally unnerving and I could not put it down." — Sarah Gailey, author of The Echo Wife
"In Song’s disturbing and visionary debut, a child pushed too hard to succeed becomes a monster of her own making… The body horror is striking, as is Song’s prose, in which she riffs on the various ways the team members are “mutilated” (“We mutilated our beauty, though this sense of beauty was an outdated version defined by narrow wrists and bird bones”). It’s a singular coming-of-age.” — Publishers Weekly
“This fantastically strange, explosive debut novel entrances even as it unsettles. It’s so brilliantly written.” — Buzzfeed
“A visceral and startling debut novel by Jade Song, Chlorine is a portrait of ambition, defiance and longing set in the world of competitive swimming… Song invites readers to enter into Ren's obsessions not with judgment or disgust, but with an understanding that is surprisingly tender in the face of the novel's abrasion.” — Shelf Awareness
“…Chlorine is an exceptionally strong debut. It’s shocking and tender, fantastical and intimate, gorgeous and grotesque. After reading “Chlorine,” readers will not only forget everything they know about mermaids — they may never look at a mermaid the same way again.” — The Harvard Crimson
“With their debut novel, Song presents a beautiful and horrific coming-of-age story about the power of transcendence to become who you truly are.” — This is Horror
"...a tender story of a lonely outcast girl who just wanted to transcend into a body which reveled in power not pain.” — The Fantasy Hive
“[A] powerful debut novel” — Locus Magazine
“Transformation, whether supernatural or not, is often riddled with loss and difficulty, and Jade Song boldly refuses to let us forget that.” — Xtra Magazine
“Chlorine not just a single work but a dialogue between many different works.” — The Boston Globe