Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Review: Awaken (Abandon #3) by Meg Cabot

Release Date: July 2, 2013
(Thank you to the publisher & Netgalley)
Published by: Point

Don't read the synopsis if you haven't read the first two books. The rest of the review is spoiler-free.
Awaken (Abandon #3) by Meg Cabot

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, the dark reimagining of the Persephone myth comes to a thrilling conclusion.

Death has her in his clutches. She doesn’t want him to let go.

Seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera knew by accepting the love of John Hayden, she’d be forced to live forever in the one place she’s always dreaded most: the Underworld. The sacrifice seemed worth it, though, because it meant she could be with the boy she loves.

But now her happiness — and safety — are threatened, all because the Furies have discovered that John has broken one of their strictest rules: He revived a human soul.

If the balance between life and death isn’t fixed, both the Underworld and Pierce’s home back on earth will be wiped away. But there’s only one way to restore order. Someone has to die.

I have somewhat of a special relationship with Abandon. It was my first ever Meg Cabot book. It was also one of my first ever ARCs, which I'd received because I'd volunteered at the 2011 RT Convention. It's really awkward, when two years later, you know your reading tastes have changed a lot, and you wonder what that will change, especially in regard to a series. I had an ARC of Underworld from volunteering at RT 2012, so I read it prior reading to this book and also skimmed Abandon. And I'm finding my feelings very mixed on this series.

What didn't work -
  • Pierce - Two years ago, I'd written that Pierce was: "a delightful protagonist.  She's not particularly strong per se... More that she's vulnerable and quirky, paranoid but tough enough to hold onto who she is despite the people who call her crazy and to care for people even when it puts her in danger... such a joy to read from her POV!" It's to my great disappointment that Pierce, the same quirky, determined, caring heroine - the kind of heroine who's generally featured in paranormal romances such as this - was not as delightful to read from this time around. Having the entire series fresh in mind, I noticed that Pierce cried a lot. She cries, and usually John does something, gives in to her demands. She's not an active heroine. She visits other people who are generally the ones who have the knowledge or the ability to act, or hey, her boyfriend shows up at perfect moments to beat the crap out of someone who is about to harm Pierce, and Pierce being Pierce will generally ask him not to kill people (this is a huge pattern in the series, which is sometimes joked about, but it leaves me feeling like Pierce is a bit too much like a damsel-in-distress). Also, Pierce ends up falling prey to the paranormal-romance-heroine-trap, which is to say: her life begins to revolve around her boyfriend - forcibly, in the first two books, but by her own choice in this book. However, given the fact that my re-read this time around led me to feel less than charitable about their romance, I may be bias regarding these incidents. 
  • Plot holes - Specific to this book. As a death deity, John Hayden has a lot of powers. He refers to these as the "compensations" of the job. Something major - the inciting incident/turning point for Pierce's journey - could have been easily prevented with the use of one of these powers. I'm still a bit miffed about the reasoning. I talked to another reader about it, and I'm not sure the answer she gave completely satisfies me either. Since it's a big plot point, I expected the situation to be more concrete than what happened.
  • Lame villains - The Furies disappoint me a little. If they're so bent on revenge and destruction, there are so many other people who they can kill that they don't. That is, if they had followed through with their threats and were at least somewhat smart or organized. They're not. You're told of their danger, and sometimes you see it, but I never really thought that they were a huge contender, just a small obstacle to John and Pierce's relationship. I wish that there had been more complexity to the Furies as well as the villain who is introduced in this third book. One reviewer pointed out the inconsistency in this villain as well (though I would not check this link unless you're okay with spoilers).

The Maybes -
  • John - If it weren't for this last book, John would have been listed above. I liked him when I first read Abandon, despite the cliches of the bad boy about him: the all black clothes, the tortured past, the good looks, the strange colored eyes (grey eyes are not that common, yet for some reason, they do seem to crop up in YA lit a lot), "the storm in need of a sun" (More on that later.). Now, having read the series and gone through a few changes myself... Crap, he is overprotective to the point of being overbearing, controlling - I mean, it is really, really hard to have a Hades/Persephone retelling without Hades coming off in some negative way, since y'know, he tricked Persephone into staying - and violent to the point where it concerns me. Anything in relation to Pierce and her being in danger - damn the consequences (a word he is fond of), he will beat the shit out of it/him/her/etc.. And yet, somehow he still charmed me a bit with his old-fashioned ways and his ability to change. In this final book, he starts to lighten up, cracking jokes of his own and finally letting Pierce take the rein of some things - without his guidance too. Less violence/overprotectiveness/controlling/etc. happening in this last book, so I'll just say he changed for the better and count him in the maybes.
  • Pacing - It took a while for the meat of the story - all the plot threads that had been introduced over the series - to get going. And this generally seems to be the trend, I think. In the first book, it's that you're trying to make sense of Pierce's flashbacks; the second book, what Pierce will be able to do in the Underworld; and the third book, what Pierce will do after X inciting incident. But the problem, for me, at least, was that seemed to take ~75 pages each time. Other than that, the stories definitely built up momentum. Just the beginning was off.
  • Romance - This time around, I wasn't very happy with the romance. I remember thinking that it was quirky, just like Pierce - the way she consistently referred to John as some wild thing that needed taming. This did not sit well with me this time around. Pierce is also the sun to John's storm, according to one of the characters. 1. Wild thing doesn't sound so romantic to me, because it's like taming a dog and also because it seems to feed into that whole the-girl-has-to-change-the-man aspect in society. 2. The sun to the storm. I am not a fan, again, of the main characters being reliant on each other for... their sense of self//happiness. I don't think it was that bad in general, but the metaphors for their relationship saddened me. Other than that, I did like how their romance progressed over the series - the slowly rising stakes, that eventually it was Pierce who made the choice, that they learn to trust each other and their abilities, and that they fall in love at different times.

What worked
  • World-building - I noticed, having read the three books back to back, that there was a very specific story structure in mind with them, and at least one of the elements was the info-dump from the old man, though there were two who it could from. Still, I enjoyed these little info-dumps, and there were other elements that were introduced in more subtle ways. I liked how Ms. Cabot played with various elements of Greek mythology and with The Divine Comedy, which is quoted at the started of every chapter. Abandon all ye Hope, eh? Plus, I was a huge fan of how she incorporated weather into the story, and the history of the island itself. She seemed to have a very set world and knew how it would play into the plot twists, character cast and history as well as the myth of Hades and Persephone.
  • Character Cast - Few of them are particularly developed, but I liked the majority of them, and they made for an odd but enjoyable cast to have around as Pierce and John went on their journeys. There are a lot of characters, too, so even if you don't like some of them, there'll be plenty of others to keep you entertained.
  • Writing - I'm still a huge fan of Ms. Cabot's writing. There's something about it that bespeaks of the experience she's had. She's got her story structure down, humor well placed and voice clearly, clearly shining - not just Pierce's voice but her own as an author - and despite my comment about the pacing, I was rather entranced by the story. Also, I find myself utterly charmed by the fact that seven-year-old Pierce had referred to John's eyes as the color of skates.

In summary, I'm not sure I'd recommend this series - you can tell that I'm pretty conflicted all around (I tend to generally write more about the negative v. positive aspects - what can I say?) - but I would recommend trying Ms. Cabot's other work. It's something that I surely will do, even if the Abandon trilogy might not have been quite my cup of tea, so to speak. The story might not have been for me, but the promise of her writing is great enough for another trial.

Other Reviews - these people really liked Awaken and can give you a second opinion:
-YAL Book Briefs
-Ashleigh Paige


  1. I always find my reading tastes change pretty dramatically, even over just a few short years. For instance, I loved Meg Cabot's older books, though when I tried Abandon, I couldn't get into it at all. It's a shame that Awaken didn't work quite as well for you, but I guess I can understand the mixed feelings. Lovely review!

  2. Yes. My reading tastes have changed dramatically in the past couple of years, and I'm not sure, if I read Abandon for the first time now, instead of two years prior, that our opinions would have diverged much. It makes me happy to know that you loved her older books! My gut is right in telling me to read some of Ms. Cabot's other work.


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