Today, we are excited to share this debut of Chlorine by Jade Song, out today from William Morrow. This “darkly imaginative debut… is a story about transcendence and self-actualization, at the expense of conventional demands on young women,” writes reviewer Rebecca Paredes. Read the full review at the link below!
“You are not here of your own free will. You are here because I desired you first.” So begins Chlorine, a darkly imaginative debut by artist and writer Jade Song. This coming-of-age novel follows Ren, a competitive high school swimmer whose life revolves around the pool. Outwardly, she is a high-achieving student, a dedicated athlete under the tutelage of her problematic coach, and a close friend to her loyal teammate Cathy. Inwardly, she longs for the freedom she found as a child in the pages of a book of mermaid folklore, from Nüwa and her serpentine body to the Passamaquoddy tale of the two girls transformed into writhing water snakes.
Ren’s fierce longing for the freedom of the water is grounded in loss: Her father returned to China for work, leaving a young Ren and her mother behind in Pennsylvania. Ren finds solace in the chlorine-tinged waters of competitive swimming, but her time in the water is immediately complicated by Jim, a predatory swim coach who routinely pushes his swimmers to their breaking points—with a particularly intimate interest in Ren. As Ren continues to push herself to succeed—to swim well enough to get scouted and end up at an Ivy League school—she circles burnout, continuing to put others’ expectations before her own until she reaches her breaking point. Ren is sexually assaulted by a teammate during a team party, and after this final blow to her autonomy, she realizes that the only way to overcome the expectations of her human life is to evolve into her true form.