Author: Elizabeth Fama
Series: Monstrous Beauty
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYC)
Publication Date: September 4, 2012
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
This haunting tale cast its spell on me from the very first chapter. Stories involving mermaids and selkie folklore have inundated the YA market as of late, but each struggles to bring something different to the reader, to make an indelible impression upon them. With her second novel, it’s clear that Elizabeth Fama has created a story so unique and so beautifully woven that her readers will not soon forget it.
Monstrous Beauty is considered a young adult novel, but honestly, it doesn’t read like one. And it’s most definitely not your typical mermaid story either, which all too often tend to be on the lighter side and altogether fluffy. This story is haunting – literally – and full of all manner of vile things, including -- but not limited to – murder, rape, abandoned children, and a curse hundreds of years in the making. But woven into this cryptic story is also a tale of love and sacrifice so heart-wrenching it took my breath away at times.
The story is told through alternating points-of-view and spans two different time periods. The novel begins with Hester in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, pondering over unrequited love and her own awkwardness. I immediately felt a kinship with Hester, not because of either of those things but because of how genuine her thoughts and feelings were, how honest she was, even with herself.
|Image from Tor.com|
"It was one of the reasons she was drawn to history in school: there was such romance in listening to voices of the past."
I highly recommend Monstrous Beauty for anyone looking for a darker fairy tale, one riddled with secrets and ghosts and very dark deeds. Or if you’re simply looking for a mermaid tale that doesn’t read like a Disney cartoon, this book might just be what you’re searching for. And if you’d like to take a peak at the author’s writing and the world she has created, you can check out her short story, Men Who Wish to Drown, set in the same world as Monstrous Beauty.