Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Title: Monstrous Beauty
Author: Elizabeth Fama
Release date: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided through Netgalley
Pages: 304
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository

Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.
I am finding it hard to hold a firm opinion on Monstrous Beauty. I think I liked it? I know I loved the writing and the setting and the dark feel of it. I guess this means I liked it. But I also was not excited reading about Hester like I was Syrenka. I couldn't feel a whole ton of love for Hester's best friend (whose name escapes me, clearly not the best sign.)

On the bright side, there are just too many amazingly delicious things in this book. Like I said, the writing, setting, and feel were perfect and beautiful. But so were a good number of the characters, especially Syrenka (and OOH that mermaid queen. She was AWESOME.) She has such an innocence and willingness to love but finds her very nature keeps getting in the way of her happiness. This doesn't stop her from fighting for what she wants, harder than most characters I've read about, making her memorable and lovely in a way unlike any other. I think I'd read this book simply for Syrenka.

Luckily, we don't have to! I know this sounds terrible and morbid, but there are some awesome deaths in this book, not to mention some of the creepiest locations and characters, all of which I love. (Come to think of it, this would be a great book to read around Halloween...) What makes these grotesque--and I mean grotesque--things bearable is how they're presented to the reader. They're not thrown into the story to make it seem sensational or for shock value. Most of them are there to show how truly horrific the circumstances of Syrenka's, and other character's, lives became. They're also presented in such darn pretty language you almost don't recognize how terrible they are. This is a talent I applaud.

So... Um... Apparently I liked this more than I thought. Nothing like writing a review to learn how you felt about a book! While I'm a fan, this is not a book for the younger readers of YA. There's a great deal of violence that I wouldn't recommend it to a young crowd. But older readers of YA should find this book fascinating and very appealing.

Risk a paper cut? If you're looking for a step up (and away) from the normal paranormal books, this is just for you.

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