Published by Entangled (9.4.2012)
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Format: eARC, 304 pages
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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 was skeptical about the book as soon as I read the prologue, but I decided to give it a chance anyway. In the beginning, a mermaid is ‘in love’ with a guy because she watches him all the time from the sea. Um, that’s NOT love. That’s LUST. You can’t be in LOVE with someone without actually knowing them. Ugh. Then she lures him into the water, he tells her he wants to be naked too so he starts taking off his clothes, and she accidentally drowns him because she forgot he has to breathe. She had dared to love, and she had lost everything. Um? Yeah, I should have known I wouldn’t like the rest, because of how absurd the beginning was to me.
Hester irritated the shit out of me. I can’t really pinpoint the reasons, or the particular why; she just did. I didn’t like her as a lead and I couldn’t relate to her at all. Any time she opened her mouth I just wanted her to shut up. Plus her whole “I’m never falling in love because it will kill me” thing was just ridiculous and made no sense. Just because she couldn’t have a baby didn’t mean she couldn’t ever be in love or get married. There’s still the possibility of adopting, or not having children at all.
Speaking of romance. Good GOD. Hester meets Ezra, they talk a few times, and WHAM BAM!! They’re ‘in love.’ ARGH!! I despise instaluv. With the fire of a thousand suns. When Hester said ‘I can’t think straight when I’m touching you,’ I threw up in my mouth a little. And Ezra had little to no personality to speak of. Probably because he didn’t have much of a part and we didn’t even actually get to know him. Neither did Hester.
Something else that bothered me: Hester’s cursing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been known to curse like a sailor. It doesn’t bother me. But, in a YA book, I don’t feel it should really be used except in dire circumstances in the story. The usage of it in Monstrous Beauty was forced and unwarranted, like Hester was meant to appear badass just because she could drop the F bomb without batting an eyelash.
The prose was a bit sophomoric and some of the dialogue was unrealistic. I’m sorry that I don’t have an example, but during some of the conversations I was just thinking, Jeez, this is stupid.
And there was a Lion King moment – you know when Pumbaa is all, ‘We should take him home, when he grows up he’ll be on our side’ and Timon says it’s the stupidest idea ever, then turns right around and says ‘Heeey, what if he’s on our side?’ Yeah, there was a moment like that with Hester. The Pastor tells her she has to do something, and she’s all, Noooo I won’t do that, blah blah, I can’t, bitch bitch, and a couple pages later she’s like, I have to do [said act that she had just refused] now, Pastor. And there wasn’t really any decision making or any debate leading up to the revelation.
I gotta give credit where it’s due, the story had great potential. The flashbacks revealing the truth intermittently was intriguing and kept me interested when I otherwise would have wanted to give up. The idea of everything – the curse, the ghosts, the tragic events – made for a pretty good story with some twists and turns.
I also liked the idea of mermaids with razor sharp fins and sharp pointy teeth. Although if they’re given deadly aspects, I expected them to be more vicious and…well, deadly. There was talk about them seducing and luring sailors to their death, but no action.