Sunday, January 1, 2012

Starcrossed Book Review

Author: Josephine Angelini. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  HarperTeen. ISBN: 9780062011992.
Annotation: Sixteen-year-old Helen Hamilton’s life changes forever when she encounters Lucas Delos, a member of a wealthy family that just moved into a mansion near her home on Nantucket Island. Helen is shocked to learn that she, like Lucas and the rest of the Delos family, is a Scion: a descendant of Greek gods and goddesses who have been feuding since the Trojan War.
Personal thoughts:  I am a huge fan of Greek mythology and am excited that it seems to be making a bit of a resurgence in contemporary literature, especially for young adults. I could immediately pick up on the comparison of Helen and Lucas to Helen of Troy and Paris, and thought that this was a very interesting idea to explore in the novel. Although I think the story took a few twists and turns that I would have liked to see happen more fluidly, I did enjoy Starcrossed and think Josephine Angelini has a very bright future as a young adult author. I’m looking forward to reading Dreamless and am curious to see where Angelini takes her characters next.  
Plot summary: Sixteen-year-old Helen Hamilton lives with her single father on Nantucket Island. Helen has always felt out of place, unsure of why she is so much taller, stronger and faster than other girls her age. What Helen wants more than anything is to avoid attention from anyone but her loving father and her spunky best friend, Claire.  Helen is thrust into the spotlight, however, when she first meets Lucas Delos. The Delos family has recently moved to the island from Spain, causing rumors to circulate about their wealth. Helen is not as excited as everyone else about the new family’s arrival, and is therefore shocked when, upon first setting eyes on Lucas, she finds herself consumed with rage and an overwhelming desire to attack and kill him. Gossip spreads quickly on the small island, but the truth of Helen’s assault on Lucas is more than anyone could have guessed: Helen and Lucas are both Scions, descendents of Greek gods and goddesses, as is the rest of the Delos Family. It seems that Helen and Lucas are from rivaling Scion houses and are at the center of a feud that stems from Helen of Troy and her decision that started the Trojan War thousands of years earlier. The Fates have a role for Helen in the tragedy that has repeated itself for centuries, one that can’t seem to control. But as Helen and Lucas get to know each other, will the Fates continue to demand blood-for-blood?
Review:  A cross between Romeo and Juliet and The Iliad, Angelini’s debut novel, and the first installment in the Starcrossed trilogy, makes for an enjoyable if somewhat melodramatic story for young adults, especially those who are fans of Greek mythology. One of the best aspects of the novel is the setting, which the author, a Massachusetts native, took great care in creating. Various aspects of life on Nantucket Island are made central to the story, from locations, to architecture, to weather. Even readers who are not even vaguely familiar with the rich history of the island will be able to appreciate the unique setting for the author’s epic (no pun intended) romance. Drawing a great deal from Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, Angelini ventures even further than many ofher contemporaries into the increasingly popular inclusion of Greek mythology in young adult novels. Several series have sprouted up in recent years that rely heavily on elements of mythology, but Starcrossed is truly for fans of the ancient stories, with characters named after famous figures like Hector, Ariadne, and Cassandra and references to the various events in The Iliad and The Odyssey. The author does a good job of weaving the rather intricate tale, but there are, unfortunately, several points in the novel where the reader might feel more than a little bit confused. The forbidden romance between Helen and Lucas also gets tiresome (the lovesick pair are constantly trying to decide whether to stay away from each other or run away together), but the rest of the novel makes up for these weaker elements by packing a great deal of action and entertainment into the story. Overall, a great start to a promising trilogy for young adults.
Genre: Fantasy
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs, The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter, Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon, Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett.    
Themes:  Greek mythology, Romeo and Juliet, loyalty, Trojan War, revenge, romance.
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Booklist.     
Series Information: First installment in Starcrossed trilogy. Second novel, Dreamless, set to be published May 29, 2012.   
Discussion questions:
- Why do you think Helen felt like an outcast for most of her life? Was it more than just her strength?
- Why did the Furies stop plaguing Helen whenever she saw Lucas?
- Do you think it was right for Helen to get Claire involved in the business of the Scions? Why or why not?
- Why do you think Pandora did what she did?
- What would you like to see happen in the sequel, Dreamless?

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