By Elizabeth Wroten
Review: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
On 22, Mar 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
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.
In deciding whether I wanted to read this book or not I read a number of reviews on GoodReads and found a lot of people complaining about mermaid fiction. I was totally unaware this existed (for the most part). I was sort of vaguely aware of mermaid lore from the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie and from a couple other books that had them in it, but, whoa, have I been missing out. Mermaids are awesome! And rather creepy!
For me this book fell into the category with The Diviners. It’s totally awesome, I wanted to read it in one sitting, but didn’t want it to end. But it’s not a serious-coming-of-age-with-heavy-themes kind of awesome and I always feel funny grouping those books together in the you-must-read-this category. But that’s just me.
I kind of felt like the general mystery was predictable, but the details really didn’t come together until I had read it all the way through which kept me turning the pages. Switching back and forth between the present and the past was also a great way to keep the tension building and Fama did it without ridiculous cliff hangers.
The characters are also interesting. Hester is afraid to throw herself into a relationship where she might get hurt and I think this is a very relatable fear for teens, even if they aren’t cursed. Syrenka is kind of complex. Clearly she’s in love and is willing to do what she needs to to be with Ezra, but as the story continues you realize some things about her, her past, and about mermaids that I felt made her a lot more sympathetic. I think the male characters could have been a bit more fleshed out, but I didn’t really notice that fact detracting from the story in any way.
I should warn you there is a rape in the book. It isn’t overly violent or described in detail, but it’s a rape nonetheless.