Monday, June 27, 2011

Abandon all hope? Don't be so pessimistic...

Abandon by Meg Cabot:

New from #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, a dark, fantastical story about this world . . . and the underworld.
Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.
But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.
Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.
But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.

Summary from Goodreads.

When Pierce Oliviera was fifteen, she died – but only for an hour. Not a very long time when compared to fifteen years of living (or 131,487.19 hours, give or take a decimal), but long enough to accidentally run into a Underworld-ly gatekeeper, John. What two ships, passing on hellish waters became something a little more since she’d previously met him when she was seven. That time she’d just shown him a little kindness, this time she maybe, kind of, sort of promised herself to him for all of eternity.


Was there some love at first, er, second (and considerably more legal) sight going on? Possibly. Maybe even some lust, but that wasn’t reason enough for Pierce to stick with death for the rest of her afterlife. So she made for the exit. Whether it was due to her fast thinking or medical intervention in the form of epinephrine and defibrillators, she found her way back to the land of the living only to discover that dying – even if it’s only for an hour – has some serious repercussions. Within two years of her near-death experience her parents had split, her former best friend committed suicide, and Pierce has been moved to the rather morbidly named Isla Huesos (Island of the Bones) to start a new school at the bottom rung of the social ladder. Oh, and that John guy is still popping up whenever near-death comes to call.

Which is more often than you would expect from your average teenager who doesn’t have a death wish.

Meg Cabot has re-imagined the Persephone/Hades Greek myth and updated it for the modern teen. The Underworld, though still a cave beneath the earth, is staffed by biker bar-style, bad boy bouncers and the Furies who wish to torment them. Cast in the Persephone role, Pierce proves that she actually listens to the advice every girl has heard from her mother (don’t ever accept food from strangers, know your exits). This, along with some fast thinking, allows her to give only an hour of her life to John (now a gatekeeper instead of a god) instead of six months or all of eternity. Good thing too, as her own mother is too nice to call down Winter upon the land.

Thanks to Cabot’s breezy style and Pierce’s direct personality/acknowledgement of her more questionable behaviors, the author keeps her main character from verging into TSTL* territory. Still many of the plot points of the first book (in this planned trilogy) hinge on reactions that result in Pierce in life and death situations. Well this, and her inability to effectively communicate with John.

In flash backs Pierce compares herself to Snow White, the events of that hour long death creating a separation between her and the rest of the world. Her near death experience has caused her to disengage from school and her parents and friends. Because, really, how do you explain that life after death is far more complicated and a lot less beautiful than seeing a bright light at the end of tunnel? Refreshingly for paranormal YA, it’s not the infrequent visits from her otherworldly would-be lover that wakes her, but the death of her former friend. This propels her back into (destructive) action and ultimately leads to her move to Isla Huesos where the reader joins the story.

Due to Pierce’s fear, and his act first/think later attitude, John’s character appears only partially drawn in this first book. Pierce doesn’t know if she wants to get to know him, and due to the narrative being from her point of view, we are not allowed to know him either. Due to the events at the close of the story, however, I hope that both she and the reader will understand more about his character soon.

I will admit, Abandon isn’t my favorite Meg Cabot book – too many situations could have been avoided if Pierce and John had just had a straightforward conversation – but that still means its better than 50% of the other paranormal YA books out there.  I have faith that Cabot’s doing something interesting with the Hades/Persephone Myth. Despite my YA paranormal/mythological fatigue, I’ll be checking out Underworld when it comes out in 2012.

You can purchase Abandon from these fine retailers: Powells, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Your Local Indie, or you can pick it up at your local library.

Book Source: Βιβλιοθήκη (that’s library in Greek according to the Internets).

*Too Stupid To Live

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