Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Undercover Wednesday: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Monstrous Beauty

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama (September 4th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

From GoodreadsFierce, 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 Hester's 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 a tragedy of long ago.

Guys. Monstrous Beauty is everything you want in a YA paranormal romance. It's layered and atmospheric and sexy, and packed full of twists and turns. Chime author Franny Billingsley says about Monstrous Beauty: "Dark and sensuous as the sea itself, this fiercely intelligent page-turner explores love, loss, and new beginnings." 

I couldn't have said it better myself.

This book gripped me from the earliest pages and never let go. Its characters are unique and unforgettable. Mermaid Syrenka is absolutely captivating: a tortured, lonely soul who finds true love and does everything in her power (literally) to keep it. Contemporary Hester is a smart, sensible girl, equal parts relateable and enviable, who finds herself wrapped up in a generations-old mystery. And Ezra... A nearly flawless love interest who has the mind of a scientist and the heart of a hopeless romantic. There are others, too: a loyal best friend, a drunken pastor, an odd little girl who likes to play in an ancient cemetery, and an Ursula-esque sea queen who totally gave me the creeps. 

Monstrous Beauty boasts one of the most tightly woven mysteries I've read. It's a study in entwining subplots, which is especially impressive considering that this novel unfolds during two different time periods, decades apart. By page thirty, I was sure I'd figured out how the story would end. By page sixty, I was reexamining everything I thought I knew. By page one-hundred, I was picking my jaw up off the floor. Seriously. The mystery, its layers, its inter-connected characters, its perfectly-paced reveal... I was mesmerized. 

The writing in Monstrous Beauty is simply stunning. The story is told in third person which is not normally my favorite perspective, but here it lends a certain elegance and works perfectly with the numerous characters and overlapping story lines. Elizabeth Fama has knack for beautifully detailed descriptions and snappy, realistic dialogue. As much as I wanted a resolution to the novel's mystery, I was too busy appreciating its gorgeous prose to hurry my reading along.  

Monstrous Beauty has a little something for everyone: A complex plot, multi-dimensional characters, a thrilling, chilling mystery, strong writing, a fresh spin on tried and true paranormal, a bit of history, and romance that will have you swooning. It's a sophisticated, intricately told tale for intelligent readers. A definite recommend!  


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