1) Will you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Jenna Pearce. I’m seventeen. I grew up in San Diego and I’m a senior at Dover Prep. I’m captain of the Dover Field Hockey and Tennis Teams. I’m dating a boy called Sawyer. He’s captain of the Surf and Swim Teams. I like sports, reading non-fiction and listening to music. That’s me in a nutshell.
2) Tell us about your best friend, Nerissa. What exactly is an Aquarathi?
Nerissa is part of an alien underwater species known as the Aquarathi. They came here thousands of years ago when their own planet died, and they’ve been living in our oceans in secret ever since. They only ever take human form as part of a human acclimatization cycle when they have to learn about human culture. For the most part, they live in a place that’s largely inaccessible to us, in the deepest part of our ocean, which is why we don’t know they’re there. Not that we haven’t seen them throughout history at certain points. You know all those stories and myths about sea monsters and whole ships disappearing from the ocean? Yep, that’s the Aquarathi.
3) What was it like when Nerissa told you the truth about herself? Be honest.
I was more curious than anything. After I found her in such an advanced state of dehydration, my brain had already processed the fact that she wasn’t all girl, if you know what I mean. She didn’t look human. Ever seen a dried-up jellyfish? That’s what her whole body looked like … like withered gray putty. Her eyes were wild and psychedelic—that’s what convinced me. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t like WTF. Thank goodness I called Echlios and not 911, or we’d all be locked in a classified government bunker somewhere in New Mexico and not having this conversation.
Anyway, even though I was already expecting something out of the ordinary, I was still blown away when she told me what she was. I mean she’s a whole other species from another planet! I read enough to know that there’s other intelligent life out there in the universe besides us, but seeing it up close and personal was an entirely different experience. And then when she morphed into her true form right before my eyes, it was unbelievable … like something you’d see in a science fiction movie or dream up in your head. Sometimes, I still think it’s a dream.
4) As a friend, you’ve been there for Nerissa no matter what. Is that hard?
Well, that’s what friendship is, isn’t it? Being there for someone through thick and thin? I know who she is inside, and that’s all that matters. I know her. Just because she looks a little different on the outside doesn’t change the girl I’ve come to know and love. I mean, don’t get me wrong—it took a little time to get my mind around it, but at the end of the day, she’s still Nerissa. Some fancy fins and dragon eyes aren’t going to scare me away. [laughs] As far as her being a hard person to be friends with, we all have our flaws. I’m super competitive, sometimes too much so, and I’m an obsessive over-achiever. She accepts me for who I am, and vice versa.
You have to understand that Nerissa grew up as a princess in Waterfell, pampered and given everything she’s ever wanted, but she’s always had a chip on her shoulder that she’s never been good enough for her people. It puts her in a tough spot, so she comes across as she’s unaffected by it all or doesn’t care about anything but herself. Deep down, she does care. It’s all a huge front. On top of that, she can be pretty hardheaded and stubborn, which are good traits in a potential leader, not so much a teenage girl. People are going to think what they’re going to think. But at the end of the day, we’re all still works in progress.
5) If you could change one thing about Nerissa, what would it be and why?
Nerissa thinks her future is a prison, but the truth is, we all have to live up to some kind of expectation, whether that’s from our parents, teachers or ourselves. The only thing that matters is how we meet those expectations, and whether or not we choose to do so. We were all born to do something. Nerissa was born to be a queen, and she needs to come to terms with that. Regardless of what she chooses to do, her choices are going to have consequences. So I’d want her to take her future a little more seriously.
6) How do you feel about aliens living secretly in our oceans?
As long as they don’t affect our ecosystems to the point that other life is threatened, which hasn’t happened in the last millennia they’ve been here, then I have no problem with it. If they’re exposed, well that becomes an entirely different story. They’ll be hunted, dissected, studied, and our species could go into an all out war. Better for all of us that they stay secret and in hiding.
7) If you could be an Aquarathi, would you?
Who wouldn’t want to be an underwater dragon? At least for a day, anyway. I like having my two feet on the ground too much to be a sea creature forever. Nerissa once explained to me that their eye color is representative of the color of their fins, and their hair color is the hue of their scales. If I was Aquarathi, I’d have a deep red body with pale blue fins—it just sounds beautiful! And being able to breathe underwater and experience that the ocean from their point of view would be amazing.
8) What do you think defines a great friendship?
Truth, laughter, love, forgiveness, and pie.
9) What is the one thing that you think Nerissa must never forget?
Who she is and where she comes from.
10) Do you ever think you’ll get to visit Waterfell?
I hope so! One thing on Nerissa’s bucket list is a heist to borrow James Cameron’s submarine that he used to visit the Mariana Trench last year. That would be amazing—visiting Waterfell, I mean, not the theft of James Cameron’s property. And we would totally return it.