Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

monstrous beauty

Monstrous Beauty
Elizabeth Fama
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-374-37366-5
FORMAT: Fantasy
AGES: Young Adult
4 Stars

I read this book as part of the 2013 YALSA The Hub Reading Challenge. So far for the challenge I have read:

10. Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert
9. Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm
8. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney
6. Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg
5. We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson
4. Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson
3. Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal
2. Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
1. Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose

Hester knows that she cannot fall in love. Or get married. Or especially have a baby someday. Because she will die. Just like her mother, her grandmother, and those that have come before her. The trouble is Hester’s heart doesn’t want to listen to her plan to stay alive. With hits that Peter, her best friend, might like her Hester pulls away. As she walks along the beach trying to hide from him Hester meets Ezra. Uncharacteristically Hester opens up and tells Ezra about her family curse and some mysterious happenings around town. Through research and some pieced-together clues, Ezra helps Hester learn that perhaps the answer to her troubles lies in the ocean–with some of the monstrous beauties that live there.

Seriously, how wonderful to have a well-executed fantasy that was less than 300 pages! It feels like ages since I was so happily satisfied with something other than a fantasy tome. (Not that those thick, fantasy novels are wonderful…they are. But this is the type of fantasy I can more easily sell to some of the more reluctant readers who want/have to read fantasy but are too intimidated by the sheer size of some of the others.) And the way that the “historical” past sections weave so well with Hester’s story. That was just brilliant. This is one of those stories that has “haunted” me to the point that I forced one of my good friends to listen to 15 minutes of why I liked the book. (And yes, I did have the decency to stop talking before I gave away the ending. And yes, she is putting this book on hold so she can read it too.)

The only thing negative I have to say about this book is that the illustration of the mermaid-like creature on the front of the book disappointed me a wee bit. I like that it is there, that you can’t see the mermaid’s face (it is more mysterious that way). But Syrenka is described as having “swirling white hair” and the mermaid on the cover has anything but that. However, this is a small detail that in no way takes away from the brilliance of the novel.

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