Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama: Book Review

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth FamaMONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama Book Review
Publication Date: September 4th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Rating: – Poor

Book Summary: Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama Book Review Overview:

  • Lack of suspense due to the alternating timelines
  • Unrelatable protagonist
  • Interesting premise but failed to grab me overall

MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama is a genre-bending mix of historical, paranormal, and fantastical centered around hauntings and mermaids. Hester is determined to figure out the cause of a century-old curse that causes the women in her family to die after childbirth. By digging through the past, Hester uncovers secrets and mysteries that have long been forgotten.

First of all, I felt a lack of connection between myself as a reader and Hester. Maybe she’s just a bit mature for her age, I don’t know. I do know that I am well past the targeted audience for MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama and I couldn’t quite relate to Hester’s intense worry about not ever becoming a mother. Hester prevents herself from ever getting too close to any guy because she knows that in the future, giving birth to a child means her premature death. Um, okay, but do you really worry about all this while still in high school? Falling in love with someone in high school doesn’t mean you’re going to get hitched and have a baby… And if Hester didn’t want to ever risk having a baby in the future, there are modern alternatives such as surrogate mothers and adoption. But let’s not get carried away…

Initially, I loved the alternating timelines between the present and the past, but as the plot moved along in MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama, the alternating timelines were detrimental to my enjoyment. For the most part, the alternating timelines ruined any surprises for the reader along the way. Because I knew what happened in the 19th century, I spent the majority of the book waiting for Hester to just figure it all out already. The clues are laid out for the reader, so instead of discovering something new along with Hester, the reader has to impatiently wait for Hester to catch up (which only happens at the end of the book, go figure). It made reading the chapter set in the 19th century fascinating, but the chapters in present day a bit on the dull side.

The love connection between Ezra and Hester just didn’t work for me. I didn’t feel any connection between them. It was a little disappointing that there was so much emphasis on the romance between the two of them when it really wasn’t a spark. Don’t read MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama if you expect some heavy romance.

Fama creates an interesting world regarding the mermaids, but I think it could have used a little more development. This is a serious mermaid book, and I was quite lost in all the folklore.

Unfortunately, MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama was just not the book for me. The fantastical and paranormal elements just did not work to my liking.

Why I’m Biased: My best friend,Caitlin, started reading Monstrous Beauty before I had a chance to pick it up. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get into it either. I went into Monstrous Beauty with a bit of negativity, I guess. Also, the author’s blog post on ARCs doesn’t really settle well with me either (post has been removed).

Other Book Reviews:
The Blair Book Project

About the Author

Elizabeth Fama is the author of Monstrous Beauty (FSG 2012), and Overboard (Cricket Books 2002), an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

Find the Author

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  1. I’ve heard great things about this one but all of your concerns sound valid; you’re right, the mystery rather sounds like it’s ruined. And totally about the modern alternatives. :P Now I won’t feel too bad about passing on this one. Thanks for the review!

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