Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011
Source: Received a free ARC through Simon & Schuster's GalleyGrab program
In some ways this reminds me of the typical boarding school novel filled with privileged kids who easily drink underage, hook up frequently, are incredibly good looking, break curfew constantly, and receive very little punishment. Main character Ashline and her friends at prep school fulfill all of those, living larger than life. But they also have a twist in that they are reincarnations of gods from various mythologies. And that makes all of the difference.
Ashline is Pele, Polynesian volcano goddess, and her friends come from other mythologies (Haitian, Egyptian, Japanese, Greek, and Nordic), creating one of the more diverse YA books I've ever read. The book began jarringly with Ash beating the crap out of a girl who made out (or more) with Ash's boyfriend and the first section concludes with that girl being killed by Ash's older sister. The novel then jumps ahead four months to see Ash in boarding school where she begins to uncover their hidden pasts along with the other secret gods and goddesses.
Although the first section was difficult to read, I was immediately drawn in and I sped through this book. Despite being a goddess, there are a lot of reasons to sympathize with Ash. She feels abandoned by her sister, that she can't live up to her parents' expectations, boy troubles, and general teenage angst. She's very far from perfect but she does want to help people and she can step up when it's necessary. The other characters were also interesting if somewhat indistinguishable; almost everyone is pretty snarky, which is funny to read but it does mean that characters can run together. And while many of their actions and responses seemed unrealistic to me (meaning almost the complete opposite of what I'd choose to do in a given situation), these kids are gods and goddesses and they need to be larger than life with outsized passions and behaviors.
I guess I mostly disliked the sense of meandering that I felt. I believe that Knight has an end goal for the series and of course a specific end for this book but at times, I wanted the story to be a bit tighter and more focused. However, it was very lighthearted and as I said, I flew through it, which means the writing is engaging. I also want to warn people that it ends with a pretty big cliff-hanger; if that'll bother you, then you might want to hold off on reading this.
Content Warning: Violence; Language; Sexual activities
Overall: A gripping unique YA paranormal story; recommended for older readers.
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