“The Goddess Test”
Author: Aimee Carter.
Publisher: Harlequin Teen.
Synopsis (taken from GoodReads): Every girl who has taken the test has died. Now it's Kate's turn.
It's always been just Kate and her mom--and now her mother is dying.
Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won't live past the fall.
Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld--and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.
Kate is sure he's crazy--until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride, and a goddess. If she fails...
Cover Impressions: I love Greek mythology. I love Greek tragedies. I love the gods and goddesses and what they all represent and the timeless stories that accompany them. As with all people who love something, I am weary with re-imaginings and modern day updates of these tales. Some can be brilliant and really update the text to fit with the modern era, others can fail miserably. I was holding out hope for Carter’s debut (with a sequel in the works) since I have always been fascinated by the Hades and Persephone myth. There’s also a number of Greek tragedy related YA books coming out soon (including the much talked about “Starcrossed” in which the author received a 7 figure advance for what is billed as Percy Jackson for girls) so my interest was piqued enough to request an ARC on GoodReads.
There was a phrase I kept using whilst reading the second half of this book – “What a dick move.” I apologise for the lack of eloquence here but it was the only thing I could think about the more this novel went on. To start off it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t brilliant and was definitely following a set pattern of mediocrity but there were a few moments I enjoyed, specifically Kate’s emotions regarding her dying mother. They were handled well and without overtly saccharine bucket-loads of cheap emotional grabs, and it was interesting to see a paranormal YA character dealing with such a difficult problem. Of course, this was quickly shoved aside for the plot, or what substituted for one.
For the first half, “The Goddess Test” wasn’t horrifically bad, it was just mediocre. It seemed to be made from a well worn mould of YA fiction – outcast heroine who immediately garners male attention, jealous female antagonist who quickly becomes friend but fits all the clichés of flighty and annoying, mysterious and tormented supernatural figure to serve as love interest, bad boy moments, technical entrapment, etc. I’d read it all before and it wasn’t anything particularly exciting. Kate and Henry’s relationship was very poorly developed and didn’t make a whole lot of sense, not to mention how decidedly dull Henry was. How can you make Hades dull? By making him a moping misunderstood bad boy, that’s how. The Hades-Persephone myth was twisted into a more teen friendly shape where Henry was made into the victim, which bugged me to no end. Then again, these characters are so un-godly it makes sense to twist the myths to fit them.
The characters are the story’s main failing for the bigger part. Kate is fine for most of it until she falls into love-struck too-annoying-to-live territory, typical for paranormal YA heroine these days it seems, and Henry is just dull. None of the immortal characters ever seem like fully fleshed out beings, let alone gods. They never convinced me that they were anything more than childish plot devices. The Greek gods could be childish but they could also be ruthless, passionate, cunning, devastatingly dangerous, charming, every other emotion you could think of. Here, the characters just served to keep the meandering plot from going too off-road.
And this was all well and good for the most part. Like I said, it was mediocre but not awful. Then we got into the second half and things changed. What made up the supposed plot and the tests that were so important in deciding whether or not a teenage girl was worthy to become an immortal and co-ruler of the Underworld and the dead become more and more contrived to the point where I was rolling my eyes every other page. Not once was I convinced that Kate was goddess material and the so-called tests just made me think that the Olympians need to hire a new manager or something. but the biggest dick move came in the final few chapters, which I am going to spoil because I was so peeved off by them that I need to share my rage.
I MEAN IT. DON’T BLAME ME IF YOU’RE SPOILED AND DIDN’T WANT TO BE.
It was all a test.
I have this really big problem with books that reveal the hero/heroine is the pawn in a big game of “Fuck You, It Was All Fake.” I hate when it turns out that the character was lied to by absolutely everyone she cared about just so they could have the right results. No matter how badly contrived they are – like Patch manipulating everyone around Nora to get the right results in “Hush Hush” – or how happy the hero/heroine is with the results, I still think it’s a massive dick move to pull. How can one establish a relationship if there is no trust and never was from the beginning? That’s why I sighed “Oh, come on now!” out loud when it was revealed that everything Kate thought she knew – including HER OWN MOTHER DYING! – was constructed solely for her to take the tests to become Persephone number 2. See, Kate’s mother is one of the goddesses testing her so she was never really dying (okay, her human form was dying but she still lives on in some form.) And Kate is okay with everyone lying to her, or as they put it, hiding the truth from her to keep her safe because those are the rules. It was poorly constructed, it was incredibly contrived and it was a pure and simple dick move. It immediately destroyed any sympathies I had had with the book. I just didn’t care anymore.
“The Goddess Test” is a mediocre book, chock full of everything one expects from paranormal YA these days, with serviceable prose and a few moments that keep things going amidst the dull characters and meandering plot. But the big reveal that makes everything okay for everyone except the reader just throws my ability to care out the window and frankly, it pissed me off. Can we stop using characters, especially teenage girls, as pawns in stories? Can we treat them with a little more respect than this? I can’t recommend this book, it just doesn’t seem to care about its readers at all, be they Greek mythology fans or not. This book’s left me with the same feeling I felt the very first time I saw the infinitely superior piece of entertainment, “The Wizard of Oz”, when it’s revealed to all be a dream. That wasn’t fair.
“The Goddess Test” will be released in USA on April 19th 2011. I received my ARC from NetGalley.com.