Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Starcrossed" by Josephine Angelini

Plot Summary from
How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it's getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she's haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they're destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.
As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.

Amazon kept recommending Starcrossed for me, so when I saw it at the library I thought I might as well give it a shot. I knew it was a Romeo and Juliet love story set against the backdrop of Greek mythology and the Trojan war because I heard the author describe it that way in an interview.
The book started off rough for me. The sentences were choppy, the transitions didn't flow, and the back story was awkwardly added in. (Plus, I had a hard time dealing with Helen repeatedly referring to her "tummy" hurting...I just have a problem with the word tummy being used by people over the age of five.)
There was a lot of telling instead of showing. The plot really kicked in when the Delos family moved to Helen's island hometown and she immediately wanted to murder them for no apparent reason AND she started seeing frightening visions of the Furies when they're around. That was an interesting and unexpected twist. Instead of the typical YA love at first sight, it was instant raging hatred.
There were times when I thought the book could've used some tightening up, because it took too long for plot points to be resolved. For example, when Helen first saw the Furies, she knew they were somehow connected to the Delos family but she didn't ask them what the heck was going on for a long time. I don't like it when tension or mystery are created in a book because a character won't do the logical thing and just ask a simple question. Also, this is the second book I've read this year where a character wakes up after having "dreams" of walking in a frightening landscape and discovers his or her feet and bed are covered in dirt. (The other was Beautiful Creatures). In both cases, the character just brushes it off as something bizarre that they can't really deal with right then. I've got to throw my "Logic Violation" card on that play. I'm all for fantasy and the supernatural invading the real world in my books. But when a character suddenly starts having some MAJOR whackiness happening (seeing people no one else can see, having an unexplained bloodlust to kill the new guy at school, creepy dreams that leave mud in the bed, etc.) they need to react in a rational way and it needs to be more than, "Well, I don't know what's going on here...hmmmm. Oh well."
Some of the lines made me cringe, like "Lucas spun his head to look at Helen." Does that give anyone else Exorcist flashbacks? Or when Lucas has "panic wash down his legs." That kind of struck me as unintentionally funny.
The main thing that really hindered my enjoyment of the book was the complex political motivations of all the characters. There are lots of factions and sub-factions, and I had a hard time keeping straight who was on whose side. Moreover, Lucas's giant family never really gelled with me so I forgot who had what power and who was related to each other. Plus, a big plot point revolves around how horrible, terrible, and unforgivable it is to kill a kinsman. Granted, normally I'd agree with that: but a character I liked gets exiled from his family because he killed a sociopath cousin who had JUST killed another family member and was going to take out more of the clan if he wasn't stopped so....I can't really get behind a family that's operating on such ridiculous ancient codes of conduct. And when Helen is nearly beheaded by a Delos family member, she says it was "the bravest thing she'd ever seen." That's right: the person who almost chopped her head off was brave because she was following what the Fates decreed. That's just silly.
Speaking of Helen, as the book goes on she is revealed to have more and more superpowers. After the fourth or fifth surprising reveal of a new power (she's electric, she's super fast and strong, she can fly, she can change her appearance), it just got to be a little much.
Despite all the superhero stuff and talks of war, the book is basically a romance. Helen and Lucas go from hating each other to snuggling at every opportunity. But they can't be together (you know what I mean), because if they do it will start World War III. You thought the normal YA problem of "we can't do this or I will kill you" was bad. Try "we can't do this or we'll unleash Armageddon." It's a serious buzzkill.
SPOILER: Helen and Lucas end the book in deep angst because they have figured out a way to be together only to then mistakenly believe that they are first cousins. All they would have to do was some basic math about Helen's birth date to figure out that this wasn't true.
All in all, it was an OK book but not great. I enjoyed some of the funny comments (one vampire reference made by Helen's best friend Claire really cracked me up), and it was a clean romance. There was some cursing, but not really so much that I was uncomfortable, although I didn't think it was necessary. Since I never really felt invested in Helen and Lucas' relationship, I don't know if I'll get the sequel or not.
Ratings: Three Cupcakes

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