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Book Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

starcrossed angelini Book Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini


Helen Hamilton is shy and nervous to a fault: even a modicum of attention is enough to see her suffering from stomach cramps and seeking solace away from the rest of the crowd. But this isnt because Helen is lacking in any way: rather, its the opposite. Shes not only strikingly gorgeous, but shes effortlessly bright, and not to mention athletic beyond the hopes of 'all but the finest Olympic athletes. Oh, you saw that reference to Olympus, did you?

Despite her focus on grades, sports and the endless battle that is the schoolyard social scene, Helen is not your typical teenage girl. But how atypical she truly is she doesnt realise until Lucas Delos arrives on the scene. Helen, far from performing her usual trick of fading into the background, finds herself quite literally seizing upon Lucas in an effort to kill him. But Helens newfound penchant for attempted homicide isnt all that concerns her. Theres also the terrifying furies who stalk her, appearing whenever Lucas is present, and the fact that she seems to have taken to walking through Hades in her dreamsor so her bloodied feet and sand-strewn sheets would suggest.

Fearful that she may be going mad, Helen tries to get to the bottom of these strange eventsand in doing so finds herself falling, completely and utterly, for Lucas Delos. But their being together is a risky undertaking, for their love is starcrossed, the effect of an ages-old series of curses and feuds associated with their demi-god statuses. And the fact that someone seems out to harm Helen and everyone close to her doesnt help matters at all.

I came to Starcrossed'with high hopes, but it took some time for the book to reel me inand even then I was almost the fish that got away. Despite the novels appealing setting and the Greek mythos hook that no doubt was the key factor behind its massive advance, the novel is fairly weak overall. Despite the authorial earnestness at work here, both the plot and characters feel slightly underdone, and the prose is ordinary at best, evoking, Im afraid, a rather tepid reaction from this reader.

Things start off slowly, with the novels beginning little more than a crawl. For a good few hundred pages, or so it seems, were given an excruciatingly in-depth account of Helens almost clinically poor levels of self-esteem. 'But rather than inviting sympathy, this serves more to frustratewere dealing with yet another female main character who underachieves, has been abandoned, and is incapable of seeing her own self-worth. However, while in other circumstances this might well work, theres a certain lack of authenticity about it here, and this served to distance me as a reader from Helen. Angelini is perhaps not as deft as I might like on a prose or characterisation level, and the result is a product that feels overwrought and overly explicit.

Theres a certain lack of continuity in terms of character development as well. Wallflower Helen, as she is introduced, rather quickly does an about-face, but in a way that feels odd and contradictory rather than reasonably motivated. Lucass introduction is perhaps the most head-scratching element of the book: Helen quite literally seeks to kill him when they meet, but for reasons that are so poorly telegraphed that I found myself turning back through the pages to see whether Id missed something. While Helens out-of-sorts behaviour is later explained by the whole starcrossed element, I still found a little hard to accept. Indeed, I found searching for justification of events throughout the entire novel, as theres very little that seems to grow organically from the setting or characters.

Helens character, already difficult to identify with, becomes increasingly so throughout the book. Her growth from the shy and retiring dont-look-at-me girl to someone who has fewer weaknesses than Superman (even Kryptonite wouldnt have an effect on this girl) further detracts from the plausibility of the already struggling plot and her subsequent actions do little to endear her to the reader.'She throws her best friend (the snappy and generally fabulous Claire) and family (her long-suffering but lovely father) to the wind in preference of Lucas, with whom she becomes rather disturbingly infatuated. Instead, she spends most of her time in the care of Lucas and the Delos family, none of whom are especially evocative characters: they all feel somehow sketchy and ersatz, although perhaps its that Im tiring of family clans who comprise completely incompatible individuals and who spend their time doing martial arts in the basement (and also, Helen, arent you the least bit curious about why your new friends have rather historically significant names such as Daedalus and Hector?). And lets not even get started on the Return of Mum and the Evil Killer plot lines.

There are a few pluses, though. As well as the strong supporting charactersClaire and Helens father in particularthe Nantucket island setting appeals, drawing a tidy parallel to the Greek legends echoed in the pages of this book (and of course in Lucass last name, which one assumes can only be a reference to the Greek island of Delos) and Angelini uses it is as a representation of Helens current emotional state and growth. At the novels outset, the island is comfortingly small, providing a shelter to Helen and representing a sort of sanctuary, but with the arrival of the Deloses this sanctuary is breeched. However, as Helens skills and powers growor perhaps as her acceptance doesshe comes to see the island as small, and perhaps restrictive.

Unfortunately, the promise of this is interrupted by the books abrupt ending, which answers few questions and is a rather unfulfilling conclusion, particularly given the intensely slow-burn of the narrative thus far. Given my mixed feelings about many of the key elements of this novel, Im not sure Id picked up the second in the series. Lovers of starcrossed, er, lovers, and of Greek mythology may well do better picking up a bit of Shakespeare or Homer instead.

Your turn: does the starcrossed lover element appeal to you, or are you sick of people who are happy to put everyone else at risk so that they might be together?


Rating: star Book Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelinistar Book Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angeliniblankstar Book Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angeliniblankstar Book Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angeliniblankstar Book Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini (okay)

This book appears on our list of YA books about Greek mythology

Purchase Starcrossed from Amazon | Book Depository UK | Book Depository USA

With thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for the review copy

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