Author: Meg Cabot, 2011.
Genre: Paranormal Romance. Death. Mythic re-telling. Young Adult.
Other Details: Softback edition. 297 pages.
She knows what it's like to die .... Now Death wants her back. - cover tag lines.
When she was 15, Pierce Oliviera died in a drowning accident and found herself by the side of a dark lake where she met John Hayden, a tall, dark handsome young man whose job it was to oversee the newly corporally-challenged's crossing from one realm to the next. There is an instant attraction between them yet as Pierce is familiar with the myth of Persephone she has no intention becoming a permanent resident in John's gloomy palace. She manages to escape and wakes up surrounded by medics who have managed to revive her.
Now nearly two years later it is clear that she has been fundamentally changed by her near death experience. She has lost focus and retreated into herself. She often uses the metaphor of Snow White's glass coffin to describe this sense of withdrawal. After her parent's marriage fails and a number of incidents at school lead to her being expelled, her mother elects to leave Westport, Connecticut and return to her family's home in Isla Huesos, off the coast of South Florida. There Pierce is enrolled in a special programme for troubled teens at the local High School. She cannot tell anyone about John, who has made a couple of other dramatic appearances in her waking life. Then she meets him again in the island's cemetery and he is full of dire warnings about the danger she is in. These prove to be all too true.
I have long loved the myth of Persephone and Hades and learning that Meg Cabot had written the first in a planned trilogy with a modern take on this story I very much wanted to read it. I do feel that these kind of novels will either appeal to readers or turn them off completely depending upon how they feel about the narrator. From the opening chapter I loved Pierce's voice. Yes, she is a mess though I found it credible given her circumstances. I also felt she was quite self-aware and quite importantly was a kind-hearted young woman. I also could identify with her situation as I had moved to an island off the South Florida coast when a teenager and found myself somewhat of an outsider.
I am a great admirer of Meg Cabot's skill as a writer and also appreciated her use of passages from Dante's Inferno as chapter headings. Her exploration of the question of 'what happens after death' was also the theme in her Mediator series though Abandon is a darker story. I appreciated the narrative's grounding in myth, yet Cabot's willingness to explore new interpretations. It conveyed to me a sense of confidence in working with these archetypal stories. From her Author Notes it is clear that we both share a long fascination with death deities. I also had to wonder if Pierce's use of the phrase 'Don't Blink' in the opening chapter reveals Cabot as a fan of Doctor Who.
On a side note the UK edition cover art is exquisite. I can hardly wait for the next book, which is to be published in the UK in September, though the US edition is already out. Rather than buy an imported copy, I'm willing to wait a few months so I can have a matching cover.