‘Abandon’ and ‘Underworld’ by Meg Cabot

She didn’t fall into his world.  She was taken.

Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

Abandon and Underworld

by Meg Cabot

Point

Publication Dates:  April 26, 2011/May 8, 2012

Books received from:  Publisher

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The new Abandon series from Meg Cabot follows seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera, who once drowned, was pronounced dead, and then came back to life.  During her time being dead, she met Death’s keeper of the Underworld, John Hayden.  The simplicity and lack of originality of his name is an indicator of how the story plays out.  While in the Underworld, Pierce is given a necklace by John that is meant to help protect her by changing color- kind of like a mood necklace- when bad people are around.  Every time Pierce comes into contact with one of these bad people, or Furies, John swoops in to save the day with excessive displays of violence, for which Pierce is blamed every time.  Thus, these events, along with her near-death experience, have established her position as a rebel and a bad girl.  A lot of drama happens and she is taken back to the Underworld by John for ‘safekeeping.’

In the second book, Underworld, which seamlessly picks up where the first left off, Pierce is ‘convinced’ to stay in the Underworld with John for her own safety.  At this point, she is very sure of her undying (pun intended) love for her dear Death god.  John continues to become more controlling, but Pierce knows it is just because he loves her.  So, more bad things and drama happen, and then come the consequences.  However, Pierce is determined to fight for her love and stay in the controlling relationship because she loves him so much, and it is the best thing for everyone.  John continues to be the dark, brooding bad-boy who has control over Pierce and her life.

All of this is supposed to be a retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone for the YA audience.  So, a little background on the myth first, just for the sake of education.

                                                                  ___________________________________________

  The Myth of Persephone

(taken from: http://www.artfulalf.com/persephonemyth.html)

According to Greek myth Persephone is the daughter of Head God, Zeus and Demeter (Mother Earth), Persephone is Goddess of Spring and helps Demeter tend plants.

Hades, Lord of the Underworld, was smitten with Persephone and asked Zeus for her hand. Zeus didn’t consent because he feared Demeter’s temper. Hades whisks Persephone away to the Underworld anyway and makes her Queen of the Underworld.

But Demeter was distraught that her daughter left and stopped tending the plants and wandered the earth looking for her. People and animals began to starve.

Demeter insisted Persephone return to her. Under pressure from Demeter, Zeus went to talk to Hades and begged that Persephone leave the underworld and help Demeter again (before everyone on earth starved to death.)

When Hades protested, Zeus exercise his power, and declared that Persephone’s marriage would be void as long as she ate nothing from the Underworld’s garden. Hades was sad to see Persephone go and wooed her with a pomegranate. She ate a pomegranate from the garden in the underworld and that act consummated her marriage to Hades.

Her return from the underworld marks the beginning of Spring. Because Persephone tastes the pomegranate she must return to the underworld and her husband at the end of harvest and Winter begins.

This Myth basically explains the change in seasons with a colorful tale.

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Now, for the similarities with Cabot’s reinterpretation:

Pierce is taken by John, the keeper of the Underworld, to live with him.  Oh, and her father is one of the most powerful people in the world because he is an oil tycoon- which is an entire other analysis and rant that I will not even start.  And done.  That about sums it up.

Alright, so I do realize that with retellings the author is apt to take a certain amount of liberty with the original story.  However, this series stretches so far to establish the parallels with the original myth that the characters and the resulting story is shallow and trite.  The leading lady is a very one-dimensional and does not even know the story of Persephone, so she relies on John telling her bits and pieces as they benefit his needs throughout.  Of course, he conveniently leaves out the whole kidnapping and forcing her to be his wife part, and retells it so Pierce feels she has a choice in the matter.

While I was excited to read this series, I was very disappointed.  It is not very often that I finish a book- or two books- and have nothing notable or positive to add to the discussion.  I suppose it is a positive thing that Cabot is trying to expose a new generation to Greek mythology.  If an author is going to take a classical story and retell it, I believe there is a certain responsibility which comes with such a decision.  Cabot ignores the main problems and lessons of the Persephone myth and tries to deepen the story with misinterpreted and inappropriately placed quotes from Dante’s Inferno (I assume only because it is about Hell and death). What results is a one-dimensional story that one would most likely not associate with the original myth without being told the intention upfront.  Unfortunately, your time is better spent seeking out other retellings and passing on the Abandon series, because I am unsure what further books will add to Cabot’s attempt.

 

This book can be purchased at Amazon.com, as well as your local independent bookseller.

For more about Meg Cabot, visit her website.

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