21 September 2012

YA Book Review: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Release Date: 4 September 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Get a copy! B&NAmazon

Goodreads 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...
So much more than a "mermaid book," Monstrous Beauty captured my heart with all of the wonderful elements that Ms. Fama threw in. This was honestly a beautifully dark, wonderfully crafted ghost story with terrifying magical sea creatures woven in. To top it off the story offers history, genealogy, and cemeteries--all things that captured my heart in a personal way.

The story is told in alternating viewpoints from Syrenka, the mermaid living in 1872-3, and Hester, a modern young woman determined to avoid love and all that it entails for her family. Reading from the point of views of both women gives the reader a unique advantage over the modern main character as the mystery increases on both sides. Watching the stories converge in the ways that they eventually do is engaging and really drew me in as a reader.

Both Syrenka and Hester are interesting characters, but I connected a lot with Hester.  Her emotional reactions to the things going on around (and within) her as well as the way she delved into the mysteries she was exploring really resonated with me as a person.  We are a lot alike in ways and I found that she was simply a fun character for me to get to know.  Combined with fantastic writing and richly atmospheric storytelling, this is a story that I can see myself reading and enjoying again in the future.

You don't have to like mermaid books to enjoy Monstrous Beauty.  It's dark tale combines new romance, local history, intriguing mystery...ghosts, sea monsters (mermaids), and cemeteries.  it may sound like a lot of elements to throw into a single story (which is wonderfully a standalone) but it definitely works.  Fans of darker fairy tale-esque stories will thoroughly enjoy this story.

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Coreena McBurnie said...

Great review. I love your description, especially of Hester. I'll definitely have to keep an eye out for this book.

Gina/Scot Callaway said...

I read/reviewed this book earlier in the month. It was one of my favorites for the year. I said the same thing its so much more than just a mermaid book for sure! I was sort of confused in the beginning, but the ending made me give the book 5 stars.

Jennifer Ricketts said...

Another book that's on my must read list. :) This story sounds different and creative from other mermaid books out there, and the cover is absolutely gorgeous. I also love your description of Hester. Can't wait to get my hands on this one! :)

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