Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review: Dead Beautiful

Media Type: Print Book
Title: Dead Beautiful
Author: Melanie Dugan
Publisher: Upstart Press
Pages: Paperback; 165
Release Date: May 2012
Source: TLC Book Tours
Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Mild Language; Sexual Language
HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Lovers of Greek mythology, and especially those who enjoy a good twist on what they already know.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon
Dead Beautiful is a contemporary retelling of the classic Greek myth of Persephone. This was the myth the Greeks used to explain how we came to have the change of seasons. In the traditional version of the myth, Persephone – the daughter of Demeter, Goddess of agriculture and fertility, and Zeus, the top god on Olympus – is abducted one day by Hades, God of the Underworld (which is also called Hades).

Demeter refuses to do her job until her daughter is returned to her, and the earth is plunged into the first winter: no crops grow, cold settles on the earth. It turns out that while in Hades, Persephone has eaten six pomegranate seeds. As a result, for six months of the year, she must live with Hades; this is when it is fall and winter on earth. For six months she lives with her mother – then we have spring and summer.

Dead Beautiful asks, what if Persephone, like many adolescent girls, didn’t tell her mother the whole truth? What if Hades didn’t abduct her? What if she made the decision to go with him? (She is, after all, 18 millennia old.)

The result is a novel that examines the complex dynamics between mothers and daughters, and explores the challenges faced by young women as they move from childhood into adulthood and independence. It is smart, fast-paced, funny and profound; a book that will appeal to women young and old, to mothers and daughters.

Melanie Dugan's Dead Beautiful is a fresh take on a Greek myth that we all know and love. Mythology tells us that Persephone was conned into spending half the year with Hades, and thus the seasons were born. What if that wasn't the case though? What if, instead, Persephone went willingly to her new part-time home. Dugan's book explores the possibility that perhaps, rather than stealing her soul, Hades actually stole Persephone's heart.

Dead Beautiful is unique in that it is told in very short bursts. Each chapter is essentially a miniature interview with a different god or goddess who is related somehow to Persephone. Dugan' sets up a world where the gods are the head honchos. They are responsible to keep the earth running smoothly and, wouldn't you know it, some of them are just overworked. Who has time to pay attention to flighty teenagers (18 millennia is rather young) when you've got a whole world to run? This is the perfect set up for Persephone and Hades to build their story, and it works really well as a whole.

The one downside to telling the story this way is that it is all dialogue. Settings, events, and everything in between are built entirely through the words of the different entities being interviewed. In some cases, like for Persphone and Hades, this works great! These two have very distinct voices. Especially Persephone, as she's portrayed as the petulant teen most of the time. For others though, it gets really difficult to figure out who is speaking. If you're not a fan of reading the title of each chapter to know who is going to be telling the story, this might drive you crazy. Fair warning! What I loved most of all though was the new take on the relationship between Persephone and Hades. Who knew that Hades was actually such a sweet guy? Dead Beautiful shows that sometimes things are misconstrued. 

As a whole this book is definitely a different, but intriguing, way of reworking mythology that has been around for centuries. Let's be honest, readers who are purists are most likely not going to like what Dugan has done with the myth. However if you're willing to go in as a blank slate, I think you'll find something to enjoy in Dead Beautiful. From Persephone's  ranting, to Hades' scheming, there truly is a brand new story here to fall for.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.


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