When I was in third grade, the book I read and reread the most was D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. The Greek gods were wicked, reckless beings. The stories and illustrations were fantastic, and I had that book checked out of my school library all year. I still love myths and legends, folklore and fairytales; I get the Encyclopedia Mythica’s daily tweet of a deity and mythical creature sent to my phone. Greek myths remain an old favorite.
So I was thrilled to get a copy of Abandon by Meg Cabot. The myth of Persephone, darkly reimagined…BY MEG CABOT? I love everything in that sentence! The premise: Two years ago, seventeen-year-old Pierce had a near-death experience and since then, she is (understandably) preoccupied with that trauma: While she was dead, she met John Hayden, an unfathomable stranger who turns out to be a death deity, in charge of the Underworld. Pierce is wary of John, but she’s also drawn to him. She can’t help it; he shows up to save her every time she’s in trouble.
Unfortunately, Abandon didn’t captivate me as much as I thought it would. First, Pierce is an incredibly coy narrator. From page one, we’re aware that most of the story will be told in retrospective. The events from two years ago are doled out in small parcels, tidbits dropped along the way like breadcrumbs for no purpose other than to keep me turning the pages. Don’t get me wrong—I love suspenseful scenes. But the way Pierce keeps slyly referring to past events (while not answering any of the obvious questions) gets tiring.
Pacing was the other big issue for me. Pierce slips back into retrospective reflection (not quite flashbacks) a lot, and it takes over half the book for the timeline to finally catch up and move forward. Meanwhile, Pierce keeps hinting at the same things (the mysterious “incident” with a former teacher, for example) again and again. Then there’s this short-but-packed scene where an adult, the cemetery’s sexton, reveals all to Pierce in expository dialogue. It’s enlightening for Pierce, but by that point, it’s really just a confirmation for us.
Still, there is something very compelling about the story. John, who sadly does not get a lot of screen time/page space in this first book, is like Pierce’s fallen guardian angel. Though he’s in charge of the Underworld, he’s also subject to punishment from the Furies—souls that are out for vengeance against him, and anyone he cares about. His story, and his role in the Underworld, is the one I’m really fascinated with. I also want to know more about Pierce’s new school, which seems to have some very strange going-ons and tension between the students.
Because Abandon is just the first book in the trilogy, it does feel like just setting up the story that will unravel through the next two books (Underworld is up next). I do love the bits of Greek lore that are woven throughout the piece in a way that suggests they’ll play a bigger role in the sequels.
Lee likes all things spy, smelling books, and is almost always craving a cheeseburger. She tweets from @lkyim about reading books NOT assigned for class. Also she likes Greek mythology. And dogs.