Title: Monstrous Beauty
Author: Elizabeth Fama
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Publication Date: September 4, 2012
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 could make a terrible joke about how monstrous Monstrous Beauty was, but I would feel a little bad because a) it would be a truly awful pun, and b) the book wasn’t quite that bad.
But really, I was not at all impressed with Monstrous Beauty. The plot felt kind of loose and slow, which is not an great combination for any book. At first, I wondered if maybe this was Elizabeth Fama’s first book, in which case I could understand some amount of plot troubles, but this is actually her second young adult novel.
Part of the reason I didn’t like this book was because I wasn’t all that interested in the part that was set in the present, and of course that was the majority of the story. I usually don’t go for any historical-type books, but one with a mermaid twist could have been really cool. The contemporary part didn’t work for me because I didn’t like any of the characters, even Hester, and she was the protagonist. I felt like she had no personality whatsoever, and Fama didn’t play up the family curse as much as she could have.
I just didn’t believe the majority of Hester’s character. I don’t think teenagers would speak the way she does, and I hardly ever hear kids nowadays talking about going to church. I guess the working-as-a-Pilgrim thing was kind of interesting, but for me it didn’t really add anything to the story.
I also felt the addition of Peter’s character was pretty unnecessary. I mean, I realize he’s a distant relation of Hester’s relations and that’s a little important, but I thought he was there for romantic purposes, to pull Hester out of the whole I-will-never-love-because-it-will-kill-me thing, but that didn’t play out at all.
I had been really excited about this book, but it simply did not live up to my expectations. The only reason I kept reading it was because I had purchased it (thankfully for less than ten dollars), and after finishing it, I can tell you it was pretty much a complete waste of time. The storyline had a lot of potential, but for me the author failed miserably and it was a huge disappointment.