Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
An amazon 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." AMAZON LINK OF WEIRD
So that summary wasn't half bad, although I draw severe issue with the line, "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." It's not her decision to be on land that comes with horrific and deadly consequences that she's unaware of, she's totally aware of the crap she had to do just to be on land. All of the other stuff is simply a result of humans.
So the book begins with Hester being in crush (I'm not going to call it love, I'd settle for unrequited love) with her friend Peter, and they have a very cute friendship. Hester is hung up on not being in love or being with someone due to the genetic craziness in her family. Her mother died giving birth to her, her grandmother died giving birth to her mother, and her great grandmother died giving birth to her mother, etc etc. It's not a determined medical complication or anything like that, it just appears that the mom's start to waste away once the child is born.
So Hester goes about her life trying not to get close to anyone to prevent herself from falling in love, etc. She winds up at a party due to Peter and wanders off to the beach to a cave where a dude from the party tries to hit on her but a mysterious man saves her and Hester wanders away safely with no idea who her savior is.
The neat thing about this book is that is flashes back and forth between Hester and Syrenka. Syrenka is a mermaid (No, not like The Little Mermaid) that longs to be on land with Ezra. Syrenka's parts happen in the 1870's area. In the prologue of the book there's a scene of Syrenka falling in love with a human man a long time ago (Mermaids are immortal) and accidentally drowns him before falling to anguish. So Syrenka became more careful about the humans she has encounters with and Ezra kind of happens upon her (and she on him). So they start a love story.
Meanwhile Hester is trying to figure out her medical issues and having little 'rules' that will help in her current life to prevent misfortune. However, she begins to wonder about a curse that appears to happen in the little historical church of her town. It turns out that Hester is a bit of a history buff and does her research at the library (like a badass) and the mystery starts to slowly reveal itself.
The story itself is pretty neat and I picked out some quotes this time to highlight particular parts or phrases I enjoyed.
"She should have remembered this from her school assignments: the only way to look anything up on microform, other than educated guessing or browsing, was to know the exact date of the event you were searching for," (Fama, page 79, Monstrous Beauty). This happens in the middle of her doing research at the library, so I probably more enjoyed this for the simple geek factor AND willing to put in time and effort into something worth knowing. Yay for not solely relying on Google! WHOO! INTELLIGENCE!
So we already know that Hester's family has a long line of female's giving birth to females and then promptly dying for unknown reasons. I found this quote beautiful as Hester really delves into that situation, "She cried for Malcolm [her father] and her grandfather for losing Susan [Hester's mother], for Susan for losing her entire future, and for Nancy [Hester's step-mom], who filled another woman's shoes with such grace," (Fama, page 100, Monstrous Beauty). That entire sentiment really shows Hester's passionate nature where with a closer look at the book, she may seem to operate and make decisions based on logic, intelligence, etc; but those decisions are often prompted by an emotional reaction. I think that Hester has the right affection for her step-mom and I'm terribly glad that this seemed to be another book where the mother dies, the mother figure is still present with Nancy. She might not be the biological mother, but she is the mother that Hester knows.
Okay, one last quote and I'll be done here. I just found this silly/adorable and a good characterization of Hester and Peter's relationship. To preface this conversation, being a history buff, Hester works at a re-enactment area where they bring the old Plymouth to life for tourists (Yes, the original Plymouth of America). "[Hester] 'I'm way too tired to change. I'll just be a dork for another fifteen minutes.' He [Peter] patted her head. 'You're not a dork, you're adorkable,'" (Fama, page 108, Monstrous Beauty).
Final thoughts on the book. It was one of the more likable mermaid tales I've read simply because it ran as far away from The Little Mermaid as it could (within reason, I mean they have to be half-fish people to be mermaids). It wasn't the best thing I've read as I got mildly annoyed with the character as I kept figuring things out WAYYY before she did, but I thought it had a lot of good fantasy and mystery elements to it. Towards the end got a little weird, but it did wrap up well-enough.