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.
Mermaids. I feel like I’ve written a review about them before, but for the life of me I can’t seem to remember…which says something. Ever the talk of the town, mermaids are always said to be the next fad, but never actually come through. Before Monstrous Beauty, I can only remember reading and enjoying one other mermaid series. Monstrous Beauty, though, manages to stand above the others. It isn’t often that you hear about mermaids and history mixed together to create one ultimate genre. Historical fiction, another picky subject in itself, is always hard to appease. I’ve never actually read a story this well written, historical wise, and even reading through the interchanging past and present chapters, it was evident that Elizabeth Fama has a knack for time periods. She managed to keep both pieces of the fiction so professionally intertwined while differentiating them and setting them apart(I don’t even think that makes sense).
What I adored about Monstrous Beauty? That it was actual history from a place I didn’t even know existed before reading this novel. I’ts always so great getting to read a good book and learning a bit on the side, too; especially something as rare as this. Mermaids american history in MA. Who knew? Not me, sadly. I can do with a few more of these.
The ugly? The romance, as unfortunate as that sounds. By now, I think we’ve all figured out that if a book doesn’t have a good romance going for it, it doesn’t have anything working for me. Upon reading through Monstrous Beauty I was alluded into thinking that our main lead, Hester, had a thing for her best friend, Peter, and would, you know, pursue a thing..with him. In some ultimate twist of fate, though, Hester falls for super-ancient Ezra, who technically isn’t related to her or anything but came pretty damn close to it. And who she also only had a full convo with, like, once before going about making out with the dude. This was really upsetting for me, considering that Hester was so head over heels for Peter and all it took was a look from Ezra for all those years of longing to be erased. And Peter was always so supportive and the best best friend/boy next door, which also brings me to character development.
Our very displeasing romantic situation is only part of my problem with the lack of character development. I mean, really? In love with your best friend, and then you make googly eyes at a hot blue-eyed stranger and all of that is gone? There’s no possible way. No. Possible. Way. Someone has a mild case of bipolar disorder, or just personality issues. Emotional trauma. I don’t know. Of course this can be blamed on the fact that she’s technically harboring someone else’s soul but that’s just a hunch. There was no time made to properly introduce important characters and every time it was done it felt both impulsive and like people were being jammed into the story. There was also no, or barely, mention of parents and family, which wasn’t important, but could have ultimately been helpful for Hester’s situation. Isn’t a little bit of parental guidance always futile? The setting for Monstrous Beauty was beautiful, only I never actually felt like I was there due to the fact that Fama never tried to make me feel like I was. I wish that she would have put some effort into that, being so informed about it’s history and whatnot. It would have completely altered the reading experience for me, and I feel like I’m not alone on that.
Overall, Monstrous Beauty was a unique read that was good but could have undoubtedly been better. Plain and simple as that.