Josephine Angelini: “Starcrossed”

Starcrossed  Starcrossed

Cassandra’s demeanor suddenly changed. She went from being the dark, fiery messenger of the Fates to being a very vulnerable teenager.
“I saw something, Helen,” she said desperately. “Then I saw it again, and again. I’ve been so ashamed and frightened that I haven’t told anyone else what I saw. And I am so sorry if I’m wrong – for all of our sakes. But I have to do this … because … this is what comes next.”

YA Novel
Pages: 488
First Published: 2011

Synopsis: How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is — no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it’s getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she’s haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood … and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they’re destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together — and trying to tear them apart.

“Of course I care for you,” he said intently. “The only thing I wouldn’t do to be with you is cause innocent people to die. And that’s pretty much it.” He moved on to his back again, jabbing a hand in his hair. “But apparently that’s enough.”

Review: First, I should probably note that this is a Trojan War novel in pretty much the same way that Harry Potter bringing back Cedric’s body in Goblet of Fire is a reference to the ransom of Hector, but the only reason I forced my way through this book was so I could review it and so review it I shall.

Second, I know I already talk about Twilight too much on this blog, and I’m sure that I’m far from the first person to notice this, but oh my goodness is Starcrossed basically Twilight. Look at how absurdly easy it is to write a summary of both books at once (with a little bit of New Moon and Breaking Dawn thrown in for good measure):

A socially awkward American high schooler living with her single dad becomes suspicious of the ridiculously wealthy and ridiculously good looking family that has moved to her small town. Soon after going online to research their connection to mythology, she discovers the new residents are impossibly strong and impossibly fast supernatural beings who also have individual powers such as the ability to see the future or the ability to detect lies. Following a number of arguments, the main character falls in love with the most ridiculously good looking son, though he refuses to sleep with her because of his supernatural-ness. There is a larger group of supernatural beings – based in Europe – with whom the family has a bloody disagreement on an issue fundamental to their supernatural-ness, and the family must protect the girl from them even as they must resist the urge to kill her themselves. When the girl gains access to supernatural powers of her own, everyone is shocked by how powerful she is, and she soon becomes the bestest best supernatural creature that ever did supernatural creature.

Oh, and members of the family go to her house and listen to her sleep without her knowledge. Dear YA fantasy novels: I don’t think this means what you think it means.

Another thing Starcrossed has in common with Twilight is its horrendous writing, which features awkward phrasing, unrealistically verbose characters, no sense of suspense, no attempt to show instead of tell, exposition dumps all over the place, and an obsession with the word “gestured.” I think what I found most irritating, though, was how so much of this book was overexplained. Every action comes with an adverb or a phrase to explain how or why the character performed that action, even when it is perfectly obvious. This book would have been vastly improved (and at least a hundred pages shorter) if someone had realized that these all desperatedly needed to be cut.

And now, a selection of passages I hated.

Claire Aoki, aka Giggles, was a badass.

… what.

“You certainly do heal fast. But you’ll still have some impressive bruises, so if I were you I’d avoid your father for the rest of the night.”
“I’ll just tell him you abuse me,” Helen said with a shrug. She jumped off the examining table.
“And I’ll tell him you like it,” he teased back, his voice rich and slow.

Oh yes, this is exactly the sort of dialogue I want to hear in an otherwise unquestioned ~*~GREATEST LOVE STORY EVER TOLD~*~ relationship. Allow me to spare you the passage where a woman the antagonist murders is described as “lovely in terror” and “waiting to be kissed.” The dead women are beautiful and sexually available trope, my least favourite trope of all!

Helen’s vision stabilized again, and she watched his bare back moving away from her. The last cobwebs clearing from her eyes, she decided that if Lucas was gay then she was going to have to get a sex change operation. He would be so worth it.

According to my Kindle copy, those last two lines have been highlighted by 46 different people, and I am hoping against hope that it’s because they all reacted with a “WTF?!?” I mean, I’ve heard tell that sex change operations are long and stressful and unpleasant processes and when people decide to undergo them they usually have rather stronger reasons than an attractive classmate …

Yet another way Starcrossed bothered me is by having its characters constantly misremember what happens in the Iliad, even as they believe it to be historical fact of the utmost importance. An especially frustrating passage comes when Helen decides to read “as much as she could” of the Iliad. The narration continues on to tell us “how much she disliked Helen of Troy,” unable to “understand why she didn’t just go back to her husband. People were dying.” Helen of Troy’s role in the war is first brought up in Book II, and her first appearance comes with the first battle scene (the first scene where people die for reasons other than plague) in Book III, so I figured Helen Hamilton would have read the first couple Books at least, but then we get: “She was up to the part where Achilles … started sulking in his tent over a girl.” Soooooo not even to the end of Book I? How does that make any sense??

I shall now reluctantly admit that this book was not entirely horrible. Helen’s nightmares were well-written, and the Furies were properly creepy. There were a couple funny lines. Once I got through the first few chapters, which were especially terrible, I found the story at least compelling enough to finish the novel. But I cannot overstate how awful the writing is, and how baffled I am by the number of positive reviews this book is getting – not to mention how confused I was to find that it inspired a song and a music video. I’m genuinely embarrassed to say I’m tempted to read the sequel, even if it’s just to see how long it takes Helen and Lucas to realize that the only thing keeping them apart is their inability to do basic math.

BUT THERE HAD BETTER BE SOME VAMPIRE SCION BASEBALL, because I mean seriously. At least Twilight is entertaining in its awfulness.

Buy it at: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca

As she searched, she looked down at the fallen architecture and read the names graffitied on its sides. … For what seemed like days she ran her fingers over the names carved into the fragmented bones of ruined loves, stepping around the broken pillars of unkept vows and dusting the headstones in the graveyard of love with her hands. Every kind of death had a resting place in the dry lands.
She walked until her feet bled.

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4 Responses to “Josephine Angelini: “Starcrossed””

  1. >> Fingers crossed for angry comments~~~ :D :D :D

    Oh, good, I have permission!

    >> but the only reason I forced my way through this book was so I could review it and so review it I shall.

    Much like my relationship with Twilight, then. Excellent!

    >> and she soon becomes the bestest best supernatural creature that ever did supernatural creature.

    :D :D :D :D :D :D

    But was her supernatural awesomeness preceded by her possession of amazing gorgeous awesomesauce freesia-scented blood?

    My goodness. I love it when authors engage in what is SO OBVIOUSLY a self-indulgent gesture like that, and yet write as though they are completely unaware of how egregious it is. Like, we know what you’re doing. You haven’t justified this. Stahp. Staaaaaahp.

    >> Oh, and members of the family go to her house and listen to her sleep without her knowledge.

    Hey now now. If he violated her privacy and her trust for her own protection, that’s just him being noble.

    If he violated her privacy and her trust because of his overwhelming sexual desire, that’s just romantic.

    If he violated her privacy and her trust to learn more about her, that’s just sweet.

    IS THERE SCRAPBOOKING TOO? PLEASE TELL ME THERE IS SCRAPBOOKING. Using a spy camera to take pictures of her … putting them on ivory-coloured low-acid paper … raffia and fabric flowers around the borders …

    >> and an obsession with the word “gestured.”

    WELL IT’S NO CHAGRINED BUT IT’S A START

    >> The dead women are beautiful and sexually available trope, my least favourite trope of all!

    Ugh. I am reading The Woman in White right now, which uses the Victorian trope of the Ill woman, where a love interest becomes more docile / feminine / appreciative of the hero’s efforts on her behalf after she’s suffered from a life-threatening illness. She becomes dependent and child-like, which is like totally hot. In the case of TWIW, she gets what is implied to be brain damage after an intense fever, and then the hero marries her and she is the best wife ever even though she’s incapable of functioning like a human adult. She’s got no agency at all.

    Just like if you’re dead, you don’t have agency, and that’s attractively feminine. We like our women prone, weak and helples, I guess.

    Only semi-related, did you know that TV Tropes is currently re-evaluating its rape trope pages? On the basis that … “The current Rape Tropes index has been cited as having problematic names that interfere with our ad revenue. ”

    0.0

    I don’t know if this means an overhaul or deletion or what, but I am really sad and worried, because the rape trope pages included very constructive discussion about issues surrounding rape and power, and changing them because the word “rape” is interfering with ad revenues is AWFUL.

    Grr.

    Anyways, love this blog.

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