Saturday, August 18, 2012

ARC Review: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Monstrous Beauty
Author: Elizabeth Fama
Publication: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (September 4, 2012)

Description: 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.

My Thoughts: Add this one to the list of really good mermaid books! This story moves around through time and one needs to pay attention to the chapter titles which tell us when we are. The prologue introduces us to Syrenka who is a mermaid. She is fascinated with humans and spends a lot of time observing them. But she learns that she is dangerous to the creatures she observes. 

Then the story shifts to the present and introduces Hester who is a seventeen-year-old history buff who is determined never to fall in love, marry and have children. She is afraid that she has a hidden genetic fault that would cause her to die after having a baby. After all, her mother and grandmother died shortly after they had their first child. She has a best friend named Peter who, I think, would like to be a boyfriend. I am not quite sure if Hester realizes this and is ignoring it or whether she is genuinely oblivious to his feelings. 

The old story tells about Ezra, budding naturalist, meeting Syrenka and falling in love with her in 1872. But local fishermen warn him away from her because of a long history of fishermen dying after interacting with those sea creatures. Ezra ignores the advice. When Syrenka is caught in a fisherman's net and Ezra almost drowns, Syrenka is attacked by the fisherman but kills him and becomes human. She has a baby and tries to give it to the sea but the baby is found by the widow of the fisherman she kills. Ezra and Syrenka, who has taken the name Sarah, marry but the widow of the fisherman is jealous of her and tries to convince the local pastor to perform an exorcism which goes incredibly wrong. 

In the present, Hester meets Ezra in a sea cave and develops an incredible attraction to him that causes her to do some uncharacteristic things like stealing a rare book from the library and stealing an old doll from a historical museum. This story is a mystery as Hester tries to learn about her family's past and the curse that is on it.

I thought the whole mythology about mermaids and the curse was well-done. I found the end of the story to be very intense. I think my students who like romance, paranormals, and interesting characters will enjoy this story. 

Favorite Quote (taken from the ARC and may not be final):
This was not a grazing touch, and the longer she held his hand the more there was a sensation of streaming, of flowing--she couldn't put words to it. It was as if passion itself were coursing from him through her core, filling her up, and bursting into the cool, damp air around her. It was unbearably pleasurable, and also frightening.
I got this ARC for review from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. You can buy your copy here

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ms. Martin! Glad you loved this, too! I agree that it's one of the best mermaid books out there. It goes beyond the underwater world. It's magical and surprising and beautiful. Great review!


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