Friday, May 13, 2011

REVIEW: Abandon (Book One of The Abandon Trilogy)

Cabot, M.  2011.  Abandon.  New York:  Point.

304 pages.

On the outset, The Goddess Test and Abandon have a lot in common.  Released within weeks of one another, both new series play with the myth of Persephone.  Both involve teenage girls moving to new towns with their moms, coming to terms with the possibility of someone's death, and dealing with the romantic entanglements of the Lord of the Underworld, Hades.  Excuse me, Henry.  Or John.  Both are series.  And both have left me feeling "meh."

Appetizer:  Pierce died.  Or had a near death experience a couple of years ago.  Since then, she hasn't been the same.

She remembers what it was like to die, where she went.  And she is haunted by the boy she met there, John.  She would question the reality of her experiences, but she knows John is real.  He left her a necklace to protect her.  It changes colors depending on who she is with (a mood-necklace?  Srsly?  Please try harder, Meg Cabot.  I think you are capable of better.).  Despite the fact that Pierce and her mother have moved to Isla Huesos, she is still haunted by John and the fact that he wants to take her back to the underworld.

While Cabot's writing is easy to engage with and Pierce is an interesting character, I had some trouble with the beginning of the book.  It felt like Cabot was trying to create such an air of mystery about Peierce's past and kept alluding to an accident, an incident, a near death experience and to a Him who was haunting her, I had trouble keeping all of these occurrences straight, especially as the narration jumped through time to share about several of them.  Now, the experience of trying to piece together Pierce's past wasn't so frustrating that I felt like putting the book down, but it was more confusing than I think Cabot intended it to be.  Around page 40 or 50, the plot evened out and it become easier for me to figure out when Pierce was narrating about.

At that point I was all ready to enjoy the story, but then some other aspects of the plot didn't ring true to me.  Pierce is driven to protect her friends.  I'm fine with that.  But since she's the new girl to Isla Huesos, her decision to hatch a plot to investigate a bunch of popular kids--or A Wingers--to help her cousin and a girl she'd known for only a couple of hours and hadn't even had an extensive or deep conversation with felt very forced.  Plus, none of these tensions (or many others) were in any way resolved by the cliff-hanger-y ending of the book.  I was left feeling very "meh" towards the book.  And like Cabot should have done another round of revision before publishing the book.

John is meant to be the tempting bad boy.  Cabot does a good job of presenting that, but I was still more than a little skeeved out by his relationship with Pierce.  With Pierce's first experience with being dead and talking with him, it becomes clear that he is expecting Pierce to make choices without having all the information about what she is agreeing to or without knowing the consequences of those choices.  It was one more small step above manipulation.

I liked the idea of this retelling.  I like the way Cabot explores the question of death.  But over all, I felt like the actual story fell short of what it could have been.

I repeat, "meh."

The second book in the series is called Underworld.  I'll probably read it.  Not because I expect it will redeem Abandon's weaker plot-points, but because it's related to my dissertation topic and I feel obligated.

Dinner Conversation:

"Anything can happen in the blink of an eye.  Anything at all.
A girl is laughing with her friends.
Suddenly, a crater splits apart the earth.  Through it bursts a man in an ink black chariot forged in the deepest pits of hell, drawn by stallions with hooves of steel and eyes of flame.
Before anyone can shout a warning, before the girl can turn and run, those thundering hooves are upon her.
The girl isn't laughing anymore.  Instead, she's screaming."  (p. 1)

"So who cares what happened to Persephone?  Compared to what happened to me, that's nothing.
Persephone was lucky, actually.  Because her mom showed up to bail her out.
No one's coming to rescue me."  (p. 2)

"Do you want to go someplace else?" he asked.  "Someplace away from here?  Someplace warm?"
"Oh," I said, feeling a rush of relief.  He'd realized there'd been a mistake.  HE was going to fix it.  I was going home.  "Yes, please."
And then I blinked.  Because that's what human beings do, especially when they've been crying.
But when I opened my eyes again, I wasn't home.  I wasn't standing on the shore of the lake anymore, either.
And what I'd been hoping was the end of the nightmare I'd been going through turned out to be just the beginning.  (p. 53).

"He pulled out one of the thronelike chairs.  "You must be tired.  Won't you sit down?  And I'm sure you must be hungry."
It wasn't until he said it that I realized I was.  Just looking at the mounds of ripe peaches, crisp apples, and glistening grapes in those gleaming silver bowls--not to mention the cool clear water in those crystal goblets, so cold I could see the condensation dripping from the sides--well, it wasn't easy to stay where I was, especially feeling as wobbly on my feet as I did.
But my dad had warned me about situations like this.  Maybe not this exactly.  But not to accept food--or drinks--from strangers.
Especially young male strangers.  (p. 57).

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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