It was a woman–as pale and luminescent as a ghost, with swirling white hair. Ezra startled, dropping his pencil into the water. Her face snapped toward him. Her eyes were too large, clear green, and had horizontal, slit-shaped pupils, reminiscent of an octopus” – Monstrous Beauty, Elizabeth Fama
First impressions: Before reading this novel, I wasn’t sure what it was about. The only thing that I knew was that it featured mermaids.
A long time ago, a young mermaid falls in love with a mortal man. She abandons her fins in order to live with him on land. One fateful day, their blissful love story comes to an end after a tragic sequence of events.
Nearly one hundred and forty years later, a seventeen-year-old girl named Hester vows never to fall in love. All the women in her family have died shortly after giving birth leaving each daughter, generation after generation, motherless. However, one day, Hester meets a mysterious young man named Ezra and she cannot help but fall in love with him. Could it be fate?
It is rare when I listen to an audiobook I would want to continue listening to the same story for hours on end. I listen to audiobooks only because they help me multitask, end of story. I much prefer reading words in print. This audiobook was very different. The story was one long siren call that kept me hooked. Time would pass and I was hardly aware of the passing time.
Whenever I read a novel or listen to its audiobook equivalent, there are two things I usually look for. 1) Atmosphere, 2) Character.
- Atmosphere: In this book, the town becomes a central part of the storyline. Each place is carefully mapped out and described in minute, but not overbearing, detail. When writing young adult fiction, there is a fine line between overwriting and underwriting. When the author overwrites I just want to skip to the dialogue. And, if there is too little description of the setting, it feels as if the characters are floating in space somewhere. Monstrous Beauty is in the goldilocks zone. The story flowed nicely, and Fama was able to capture the essence of Hester’s small town. Hester’s town feels real to me as if I visited there before.
- Character: The characters themselves are well-crafted for a young adult novel. However… Hester seems to be only a caricature of a teenager rather than represent an actual teenager. Her overall personality was rather confusing and ill-defined. As for the other characters, they were interesting and very compelling.
In an interview with the author, Elizabeth Fama stated that she wanted the book to be as historically accurate as possible. Although this book is completely fictitious, I admire that she was willing to go to such great lengths to make her book feel real to its readers. I would definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy history, in particular, North American history in the nineteenth century, as well as paranormal romance fans.
Note: There are a few scenes in the novel that would make some young adult readers feel uncomfortable. Some parts of the story are very dark for a young adult novel.
Final rating: B+
About the Book Title: Monstrous Beauty Author: Elizabeth Fama Year Published: 2012 Pages: 295 Genres: fiction, young adult, romance, mermaids, paranormal
Until next time,