Category: mythology


Yay for YA: Abandon, by Meg Cabot

When I hear the name “Meg Cabot,” I think “chick lit.”  Chick lit is not something I read.  However, as a librarian, I have to keep an open mind and be familiar with a vast expanse of different types of literature.  I picked up a copy of Abandon by Meg Cabot from the Superiorland Preview Center for the library, and gave it a read.  That it’s part of the current trend of novels based on mythology helped a bit.  Maybe this could be something I can recommend to girls who liked the Percy Jackson series and want something more advanced (and girlie).

Statistics
Checkouts: New to the library, courtesy of the Superiorland Preview Center
Typical reader: Teen girls

Synopsis: Pierce Oliviera died, and was revived.  After bad things happened at her school a year later, she and her mother move to her mother’s hometown on Isla Huesos, Florida, to get a fresh start.  The brooding, dangerous man named John that she encountered in the Underworld can’t leave her alone, though.

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars (2.5, really)

Let me start with the good points to this book.  I really enjoyed the story.  Whether Pierce was narrating what was happening in the present time, or reflecting back on all that had happened, I was captivated.  The plot was never dull, and the pace kept things interesting, revealing bits and pieces of the past here and there.  It had a reasonably natural stream of consciousness.  The story was the strongest aspect of the novel.

The use of Greek mythology was pretty good, if a bit tweaked here and there.  The scenes by the river Styx (wide enough to appear to be a lake to Pierce) were excellent.  On the other hand, the Furies are completely different beasts than in Classical myths.  It’s not so bad as sparkly, day-walking stalker boyfriends being called vampires, but there’s probably a better name for the monsters the Furies in this book were instead of Furies.  On the other hand … and this might be a slight spoiler … I can’t help but wonder what John really is.  If he’s not really Hades and is in fact just a nasty guy, the Furies are doing their time-honored job of tormenting the damned.

Pierce is a mixed bag of a protagonist.  I am loath to call her a heroine, because that would mean that she did something heroic.  Sure, she threw hot tea in John’s face and ran to escape him when he brought her to his prisonlike bedroom, but most of the time she was a hapless rich brat that needed rescuing either by her father’s money or by John’s brute force.  She is simultaneously altruistic and shallow, determined and fragile.

Perhaps it is her shallowness that leads to a major problem I had with the book: the other characters.  Pierce is the narrator, and maybe it’s because she’s so self-absorbed that the other characters are never really described.  I would be hard-pressed to describe any supporting character with more than a sentence.  Even John could be summed up fairly succinctly.  It would have been nice to know more about any of them, rather than having a cast of people as flat as pancakes.

Then there is the romance.  Don’t get me wrong, romance has its place.  This just doesn’t seem to be it, especially how sparingly it’s used.  John doesn’t kiss Pierce until page 260.  The book only has 44 pages to go from there.  If you’re looking for a romance novel, I don’t think this is it!  Plus, their relationship is so unhealthy.  I get that this is based off Hades and Persephone.  Hades kidnapped Persephone to be his queen, reluctantly giving her back to her mother for half the year after ordered to do so by Zeus.  So the relationship is a bit doomed by the parameters to be a bit one-sided and forced.  Does that make it right for him to show up and severely injure people when he perceives Pierce to be in danger?  No.  Does that make it right for him to kidnap her, whether it’s for her protection or not?  No.

This book is the first in a trilogy.  I’m mildly curious to know whether she escapes from him in the next two books, or if she develops Stockholm Syndrome.

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I tend to read a lot of teen/young adult literature.  However, over half the school population is in the K-6 wing, and the youngsters check out far more books than the older students.  So, welcome to the inaugural segment of my new feature, “It’s Elementary,” where I will review books aimed at young to middle readers.  First up, I’d like to talk about the premiere book in the Goddess Girls series by Joan Holub, Athena the Brain.

Statistics
Checkouts: Not owned by the school
Typical reader: Aimed at girls, ages 8-12

Synopsis: Greek middle school student Athena is invited by the father she’s never known, Zeus, to be a student at Mount Olympus Academy, where she can learn to be a goddess.

My Goodreads rating: Undetermined; probably a 3 or 4

I picked up this book on a mythology kick, in search of more novels in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians vein.  Also, I’ve got a bunch of girls moving up from Kindergarten that really need to expand their horizons from just reading princess and Barbie books – what better way than with goddesses, right?

Okay, so I may have fallen flat with both intentions.  Despite claiming to be for ages 8-12, I highly doubt the students that are reading Percy Jackson would stoop to this reading level.  On the other hand, it’s probably above what my little princesses can handle on their own.  It might work when they’re a bit older, or maybe this series would be a good one to share with their moms and dads at bedtime.  I’ll try steering them toward the easier American Girls series first.

The story itself has me baffled as to how to rate it.  If you’re a purist when it comes to Greek mythology, stay away!  Zeus is principal at the school, yet his classically older brother Poseidon is a hunky student who most of the “goddessgirls” swoon over.  But if you’re looking for some clever rewriting and don’t mind playing fast and loose with the Greek myths, this really isn’t bad.  Athena the Brain features stories about how the gods influenced the Trojan war (in the “Hero-ology” class) and why Athena has a city named after her (her invention fair debut of olives bested Poseidon’s water park).  There’s also a nice story of making friends and dealing with mean girls.  And the cover art is fantastic.

I’ll keep this series in mind for if the budget allows, but it’s not a must-have.

For the first installment of “Reading what the students read,” I chose the first book in Rick Riordan’s series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Lightning Thief.

Statistics
Book checkouts: 9
Series checkouts: 38
Typical reader: Upper elementary student, either gender

Synopsis: “Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school…again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.
“Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’s stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.”

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

Wow!  This is one of those novels where I can actually say, “I see why it’s popular!”  The writing is strong, the plot unique and catchy, the action nonstop, and the characters well-rounded.  It’s a story that captures the reader and doesn’t let them go until the tale is completely resolved.  There really wasn’t a dull moment.

One of the highlights of the book for me was trying to figure out who each god or monster was before the narrative actually revealed its identity.  It’s great fun to catch the hints.  Riordan also has been quite clever in bringing the Greek pantheon to the 21st century, trading in battle chariots for motorcycles and magical helmets for baseball caps.  This series has gotten a lot of kids interested in Greek and Roman mythology – always a good thing.