Finished Date: November 30th, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Series: Gods & Monsters #1
My Rating: 3.5/5
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“The house took my breath away. Yes, it was enormous and graceful, but it seemed to bleed emotions. Sadness. Loneliness. Like a beautiful lady left alone in a sea of gray, green, and black, protected only by oak matrons in their skeleton shawls.”
Kelly Keaton has a way with words that is very visual and poetic. I've always had a love for Greek myths and legends, and Keaton has put quite a modern twist to the entire Medusa legend that's atypical from most YA novels nowadays.
Aristanae "Ari" Selkirk has always been the oddball in society - freakish, white hair and teal eyes. She's been an orphan since the tender age of four and been moved from foster home to foster home, finally finding a loving family in the Sandersons. To be part of Bruce and Casey Sandersons' Bonds & Bail company, she has to learn to be able to defend herself and that means being comfortable with headlocks, knives, and guns. Now that she's seventeen, she's determined to find out more about her past - why did her mom request to be admitted into an asylum? Why did she abandon her?
At the asylum, Ari's told that her mom exhibited occasional unusual behaviors and ultimately slit her own throat just before her twenty-first birthday (twenty-one yo?? I shall address this in a minute), and left a box of belongings to her. In the box, there's a letter addressed to her, telling her that there's danger for her in New 2 and to run.
Thirteen years ago, New Orleans was ravaged by a freak hurricane that blew through and wiped out the entire town. A group of nine families, who called themselves the Novem, came together, bought the town and rebuilt it. People do not travel into New 2; The ones that do come out with tales of the supernatural and paranormal. Ari was born there, surely they'd keep records that can lead to some answers about her biological family. Just a day to travel there and another to travel back. What's the worse that could happen?
My Take on DBH
First things first, that cover is a stunner! I love the moonlight quality of Ari's hair, and that purple flower-on-grail pattern is BEAUTIFUL. So mysterious and just perfect for the story! I've never been that interested in the gorgon legend, especially since it's the such a commonly used story that I sometimes find it overrated. But Keaton's take on it pulled on my heartstrings and was so haunting I'll probably remember this version of Medusa's tale every time I hear Medusa's name.
When we were first introduced to Ari, she's a relatable character and she's got character. However, something that did not sit well with me is her dislike of her beauty. I'm not going to your pity party just because you're sad that you're beautiful. Granted, it makes you outstanding (well now, it can't be that bad to have moonlight hair and teal eyes), but it's nothing to be so upset about. I don't think your friends will hate, ostracize or abuse you if you have strange but really nice physical traits now, would they? So stop kicking up such a fuss over it.
But yes, she can kick ass and it's such a joy to read about her confrontations with those who'd want to hurt (or kill) her! It gets even more interesting as we get to meet the rest of the cast in New 2 - twelve-yo quirky and independent Crank, Henri with his own brand of humor, little Violet with her quiet, disturbing yet endearing ways, and the (wait for it) tall, dark and handsome Sebastian. I love the interactions that Ari has with her new little family in their rundown mansion in New 2, and their camaraderie and loyalty. Violet's so adorable in her own ways, even though she may exhibit really strange behavior at times! She wears different Mardi Gras masks, goth dresses and has a baby albino alligator called Pascal for a pet. See, adorable.
Sebastian is...quite the typical hero you'd see in YA novels nowadays. I'd say he's a mix of Aiden from the Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout and maybe Nash from M. Leighton's Down to You (first instalment of the The Bad Boys series). He's a fighter too, he's brooding, he's a little mysterious, but he's diplomatic (most of the time) and he tries his best to help Ari uncover all her family's dark history. What I would have liked to see more of is development between Ari and Bastian. Their romance was almost of the insta-attraction variety, and that just does not inspire any warm and fuzzies in me.
The pacing of the story was very steady, with some ups and some downs. There were times when the story became a tad monotonous, and I was tempted to put it down several times. But I have been in a reading funk of late, so I was determined to get through this, and what do you know, the last one-third of the book was pretty exciting. The halfway mark has come and gone and we're still dangling with Ari on the lineage front. We've met the Novem and they seem to know all about Ari's cursed lineage (they are literally cursed. I'm not swearing just because I'm frustrated), so why doesn't one of them possess the initiative to TELL US WHAT IT IS? It got so frustrating because everyone just kept, "I knew your mother", "You look just like your mother", and gave her the sad, knowing eyes. The thing is, I knew that it was going to be about the gorgon curse so just get on with it.
Another part of the plot that did not sit well with me was the teen pregnancy. Ari's mom died before she turned twenty-one, when Ari was about four years of age. That means that Ari was conceived when her mom was sixteen/seventeen-ish. In the modern world, that's just wrong, and the wrong message to send out in the YA world. The plot is also a little simple and the world not very in-depth. The entire story mainly revolved around Ari, her friends, the Novem and the Big Bad Wolf. Other than that, we don't get to see much of the world or people outside of New 2 or their little group.
It wasn't until the entire instigator of the curse and fiasco was revealed that the story started to amp up its pace. I was shocked actually, cause I was expecting some other god(dess) to be the Big Bad. Spoiler --> Hera seemed the more plausible bitch than Athena. Cause I mean like, Athena, really? She's the goddess of wisdom and justice, I don't think she will be that petty and power-hungry. There were some things that happened in the story that were rather questionable and even in fiction and legends, there are some rules already set in place that are not meant to be broken. Spoiler --> For one, I don't think the Greek gods and goddesses are that easy to kill.And why do we only get to see one of the few existing gods? That's stingy... Haha, Kidding. One thing that rubbed me the wrong way was the god(dess) swearing. There are too many F-words in this story, but that's fine, I guess. But when a god or goddess start to color the air blue, it just doesn't seem legitimate. They're gajillion years old with age-old knowledge and wisdom. Profanity should be below them. And where's the elegance?
However, I mentioned that I liked Keaton's take on Medusa's story, that what if Medusa was the victim and not the irreverent beauty that myths often portray her to be? What if she was the wronged victim forced to take the blame and suffer for the misdeeds of another god? The way that Keaton told her story was very vivid and heartwrenching.
There were many things I did like about DARKNESS BECOMES HER, but there were others that debilitated my enjoyment of it. I would still like to see where Keaton takes Ari and her misfit little family in New 2, out of curiosity or amusement or maybe they've grown on me. Just a little. ;)
Staunch (or anal) fans of Greek myths might not take very well to DBH due to some parts of the legend in here that strays from what y'all know of it.