Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sweet Venom Book Review

Author: Tera Lynn Childs. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Katherine Tegen Books. ISBN: 9780062001818.
Annotation:  Gretchen, Grace and Greer are sixteen-year-old triplets and descendents of the Gorgon Medusa destined to spend their lives fighting mythical creatures that invade the human realm. The only problem is that the three girls don’t know each other exists, and only Gretchen is aware of her role as a monster hunter.  
Personal thoughts:  As a fan of Greek mythology, I was really excited to hear about a book that incorporates one of my favorite mythical leading ladies, Medusa, into the story. I was not disappointed in the resulting novel, which takes this rather gruesome myth and turns it into an engaging book for young adults. I really appreciate that Sweet Venom is not only entertaining, but also an opportunity for readers who are not as well-versed in Greek mythology to learn more. I am really looking forward to the next installment in the Medusa Girls!  
Plot summary: Told in alternating voices between the three sisters, Sweet Venom is the beginning of a new series for young adults about triplets Gretchen, Grace and Greer: sixteen-year-old descendents of the misunderstood Gorgon, Medusa, who are destined to spend their lives as huntresses, sending monsters who cross into the human realm to hunt back to where they belong. At the outset of the novel, only Gretchen is aware of her role as a monster hunter. Unaware that she even has a sister, let alone two identical twins, Gretchen encounters Grace, a recent transplant to San Francisco, by chance and is surprised to find that the girl who looks just like her also seems to have the ability to see monsters. It seems that San Francisco, the setting of the novel, is home to a gap between the monster realm and the human realm. Monsters roam the city disguised as humans, and only the three huntresses have the ability to see their true forms and, using their fangs, dispatch the monsters. At first, Grace is excited to meet her twin, but wary of training with the Rambo-like Gretchen to fight minotaurs, draeconas, and other “beasties.” When Grace and Gretchen discover they have a third sister, Greer, it seems that they’ve stumbled upon more than they bargained for about the truth of their heritage and their role in securing the safety of the human realm.
Review:  Fans of Greek mythology will relish the first installment of the Medusa Girls trilogy by veteran author Tera Lynn Childs. Full of references to the residents of Mount Olympus (apparently, Athena was jealous of Medusa and fabricated the whole “snake haired killer” scenario), ancient monsters, oracles and more, this novel offers a fun and fresh take on some very old characters. Told in alternating voices between the three sisters, the plot constantly moves forward, making for an engaging and quick read. The author does a good job of introducing enough of the plot points to keep the reader interested, while also leaving some details to be unraveled in the second and third installments of the trilogy. The San Francisco setting of the story is also very pleasing for Bay Area residents, as the city itself plays a large role in the story. Childs has also been able to successfully create three sixteen-year-old female protagonists who manage to not tread into “annoying” territory very often. The meek but kind Grace makes a good contrast to the seasoned Gretchen. Greer doesn’t make her appearance until well into the novel, but also manages to be an interesting character as well. Overall, a good start to an interesting series.
Genre: Fantasy
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: Oh.My.Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs, Goddess Boot Camp by Tera Lynn Childs.
Themes:  Greek mythology, monsters, sisters, San Francisco.
Awards/Reviews:  N/A.
Series Information: First installment in Medusa Girls series.  
Discussion questions:
- Research the history of Medusa. How does her legend compare to the story of Sweet Venom?
- Which of the sisters is your favorite? Why?
- Have you ever known someone like Miranda? Why do they behave the way they do?
- Which sister do you identify with the most?
- Do you think there is more to Nick and Gretchen’s relationship than what Nick is letting on?
- Why do you think Greer began to see monsters after she met Gretchen and Grace?

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