Confession time: there are parts of parts of this book that I liked. And no, that wasn't a typo, I really mean "parts of parts", because it's difficult to get behind any one aspect of this novel completely. But I felt like there was an attempt, at least, to acknowledge, and even address a few of the problematic issues, and that's more than can be said for most YAPR books. Furthermore, I was thoroughly impressed by the fact that characters in this book actually had arcs.
I know, how revolutionary, right? I mean, the concept of your character growing as the book progresses? Astounding!
I really feel like Goddess Interrupted tried to have its characters learn something valuable about themselves and their perceptions of other characters, and on the one hand, I respect that.
On the other, the ending was like a sucker-punch to my girl parts, and it was kind enough to remind me of exactly why I so disliked the Goddess series in the first place.
Goddess Interrupted picks up after The Goddess Test, on the last day of Kate's six-month absence from the Underworld. She's spent the entirety of her vacation in Greece with her BFF James, and it's been fun and all, but summer is over, and it's time for Kate to come back and settle in to her life in the Underworld with doting hubby Hades - er, I mean Henry.
Except that's not exactly how it goes. Upon her return, Kate finds that Henry has regressed back to being a distant, prickly jerk. The comfort and familiarity that Kate had thought they'd reached in Goddess Test is gone, leaving her to angst endlessly about whether or not she'll ever live up to the memory of her sister, and whether her future with Henry will ever be the sunshine-and-roses bliss that she wants.
Oh yeah, and also Calliope/Hera has awoken the titan Cronus from his sleep, and his sole desire is to KILL THE GODS for their past betrayals and then destroy the world! Shenanigans!
And yes, the gods are still rolling with their boring human names, leaving me even more convinced that they're pointless and unnecessarily confusing.
This legitimately confused me for a few chapters.
At any rate, let's start with Kate, because oh my god, words cannot describe my pain. In my review of The Goddess Test, I called Kate "relentlessly self-flagellating", and that has not changed. This girl is all about punishing herself - for things that go wrong, for stupid things she did, for stupid things she didn't do, for things that aren't her fault or might be or never had anything to do with her. It seemed like every time something went wrong in her life, Kate extrapolated it into somehow being her fault. Her self-esteem throughout the book is so low, it might as well have been nega.
The thing about this is that, not only is it tedious to read about - SO MUCH ANGST, agh - but it's indicative of a larger problematic element of the story: Kate's self-esteem is inextricably tied to the way Henry feels about her.
What bothered me most about The Goddess Test was that Kate spent the entire story transferring her masochistic devotion from her mother to Henry. Likewise, the titular test was designed to get Henry to do the same. THIS IS SO UNHEALTHY. And while I would have loved for Kate, or even Henry's arc to be about overcoming this crippling co-dependency, they're not.
Kate returns from vacation in Greece cheerful and excited. She can't wait to see Henry, can't wait to pick up where they left off, and is more optimistic than we've ever seen her. Yet the moment she steps into the Underworld and Henry acts like a jerk, she's sucked into an abyss of self-doubt and fear. Her confidence plummets. She obsesses over Henry. Her every waking moment is consumed with thoughts of him, and them, and how he feels, and what he wants, and what that means for their relationship. Her self-esteem hinges on whether or not Henry loves her, and after his neglect, she spends much of the book under a never-ending cloud of agonized doom.
I think we can all agree that this isn't a healthy emotional state, and yet it's hardly even acknowledged that this could be a problem, much less challenged. Kate and Henry's romantic arc is about communication, and while I liked the maturity in exploring the idea that relationships take work and communication, and that Kate finally came around to caring about her own happiness as well as Henry's, their arc only fixes the function of their relationship, not the underlying problem. By the end of the book, it's very clear that Kate is only happy because she has allowed herself to believe that Henry truly loves her, and it's actually a PLOT ELEMENT that if Henry were to ever lose Kate, he'd dive right back in to his suicidal funk.
Nothealthynothealthynothealthynothealthy, these characters should be working on the issues that make them broken, incomplete people, not temporarily patching their holes with each other. GAHHHHHHHHHH. I mean, what does this say to the teenage girls reading it? That hinging all of your self-worth on a man is fine as long as he loves you back? That being horribly, suicidally depressed over a lover can be TOTES CURED by finding a new one? No. No. NO!
And can we just take a time out for a moment and acknowledge, once again, just how fucked up this very premise is? I know, I know, I harped on it a lot in the last review, but that was mostly about Demeter's role - what about Henry? He's the motivation for all of the shit that's going down, and you know why? Because he's so heartbroken over something that happened hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, that he's resigned to let himself die rather than get over it. He has no will to live, and no will to find will to live, EXCEPT to allow his awful, enabling-ly doting sister to prop shiny new toys in front of him in hopes of catching his interest.
The worst part is that the rest of the cast is SO QUICK to lay this at everyone's feet but his. First it's Persephone's fault for leaving him in the first place, then the burden of motivating his continued existence is unceremoniously dumped on Kate. The only reason that Kate is important to the story at all is because of Henry. He loved her, so Hera started a war; if she dies, Henry will undoubtedly spontaneously combust with grief, and there goes the entire world, because the gods can't stand up to a Titan without him.
That's another thing - I was deeply, deeply frustrated with the fact that Kate had so little to do here...
Read more at You're Killing.Us