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Dead Beautiful

Dead Beautiful - Melanie Dugan For those of you who don’t know the Persephone myth, a quick recap: Persephone, daughter of the Greek goddess of of the harvest, is abducted by Hades, the Greek god of the dead. Before she is rescued by her mother Demeter, she eats six pomegranate seeds. As a result, she is required to spend six months of every year with Hades and her mother is so distraught during those times that she neglects her job as goddess of the harvest and we have fall and winter. In Dead Beautiful, Melanie Dugan considers the possibility that Persephone wasn’t abducted after all but was just a rebellious teen who fell in love with Hades and didn’t have the courage to tell her mom.

At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the journal entry style in which this story is told. It made it a little harder to get into the story and the writing was a bit choppy at first. However, once I got into the story and events started to flow, the breaks between entries were no longer disruptive. At that point I ended up enjoying hearing everyone’s side of the story and I really liked that each of the characters had a unique voice.

I was also initially worried that the casual feel of the journal entries would be an excuse for poor writing, in large part because the first long entry was from the perspective of a rather ditzy character. I was wrong. While that particular character was not my favorite, I did like that she was distinctive, I thought the rest of the writing was superb, and I think it got stronger as the book progressed.

Although this could be categorized as a teen romance, it’s completely avoids some of the common short comings of the genre. Sure, Persephone is in love with Hades, but she doesn’t gush or act stupidly as a result. She very seriously considers her decision to go live with him. Their attraction to each other is physical, but they both also mention loving the intelligent conversations they share. Although the story only mentions their earlier conversations, it’s enough that this doesn’t feel like insta-love. There are a few weird little things, like them jumping so quickly to discussing marriage and Persephone (generally a strong character) almost fading away when she misses her mother, but I think those are acceptable artifacts of the starting myth.

Unlike the Percy Jackson series, which mostly uses Greek mythology to provide characters, Dead Beautiful borrows a lot more. Because of that and the journal-entry format, there isn’t much world building; this is definitely a character driven story. I appreciate good world building a lot, but the characters in this book were enough fun that the focus didn’t bother me. I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes Greek mythology or re-tellings in general, as this one was very well done.

This review first published on Doing Dewey.