Incredibly controlled in its descent into horror, Jade Song's debut novel Chlorine uses the competitive, cut-throat world of varsity level swimming to ask what the pressures of sports, family, high school, and womenhood does to youth. Song crafts a story that feels incredibly real in its depictions of swimmer life -- from the locker room, to the pasta parties, to the wild post-meet euphoria -- but does so in a way that reveals the dark side of spending so much time intensely focused on your body and it's racing ability. The horror elements are incredibly unsettling but feel earned in the way that Song introduces it throughout the narrative.— Mikey
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, 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.
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.
"This book was viscerally unnerving and I could not put it down." — Sarah Gailey, author of The Echo Wife
“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