Title: The Goddess Test
Author: Aimee Carter
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Page count: 304
Source: ARC from the publisher, via netGalley
Star rating: 2 of 5
Kate Winters has moved to Eden, Michigan, with her mother. It’s her mother’s hometown, and she’s dying of cancer and wants to return there to live out her few remaining days. Kate and her mother are close, so Kate is willing to give up her senior year in her New York high school, eager to please her mother and make the end of her life as pleasant as possible. Very quickly we see Kate begin her senior year, make a friend named James, get treated like trash by a girl named Ava, and watch her mother slip into a coma.
And then the tension stops, for everything is revealed.
Let me back up a bit. Ava claims to be taking Kate to a party, but instead takes her to a river (it’s made clear that Kate is terrified of water), makes her cross the river, and then skips off to leave Kate alone and cold on the other side. But something happens, Ava slips and bashes her head on rocks, and dies right there in front of Kate. She’s stranded with a dead frenemy, too paralyzed with fear to cross back over the river and hightail it to civilization for help. But lo! Through the trees emerges a bona fide hottie, of course! He is Henry, and he’s creepy but beautiful, Edward Cullen without the sparkle, and he tells Kate that he can save Ava’s life (and somehow the life of her mother), but she has to agree to live with him for six months out of the year and be his bride.
And, after a couple days of teen-aged angst with her new BFF, the undead Ava, Kate inexplicably agrees to this and goes to live at Eden Manor. Because, you see, Henry is really Hades, ruler of the Underworld, and he needs a new wife to replace Persephone, his one true love.
Yes, that’s the premise here. And what follows is a confusing jumble: Kate must pass seven tests in order to be deemed worthy of immortality and Henry’s hand in marriage; she willingly spends six months in Eden Manor with a host of weirdos, apparently unconcerned about the people out there on the other side of the hedge, wondering what’s happened to a seventeen-year-old girl who’s just vanished out of thin air; there are shenanigans and a murder; and then there’s a big reveal at the end, part of which is enormously insulting to the reader (unless that reader happened to figure it all out in the first third of the book, which I admit I did). The ending is preposterous.
And there’s a sequel coming out, but there’s zero anticipation of what’s going to happen next, nothing that makes the reader write down the next book’s release date, circle it twenty times, highlight it, and put stars and hearts around it.
I admit that I know only the basics of Greek mythology. As a Christian, I figured out pretty quickly when I was younger that the Greek gods and their stories are the complete antithesis of my worldview. They’re not nice “people,” and their stories are not pleasant in any way. So I know enough to muddle through a conversation should I find myself at a party, glass of wine in hand and a desperate will to escape, trapped in a corner by someone having Deep Thoughts about Hera or Dionysus. I do know enough to know that Aimee Carter has twisted and re-created their stories and personalities so radically that they’re hardly noticeable. And she mixes that mythology with the seven deadly sins, which aren’t part of Christian theology but are always attributed to Christianity because there are Scriptures which point out these particular sins. Anybody with a basic working knowledge of either mythology or Christian theology should know that the two just don’t mix at all.
Finally, if I haven’t beat home my disappointment with this book enough, the writing just isn’t very good. There’s an enormous amount of telling – and I despise telling over showing – and very little action. Descriptions are entirely lacking. In addition to shoddy mythology research, Carter seems wholly uninterested in building a world for the reader to picture. This happened, and then this happened, and then this other thing happened, and here is some dialogue tacked on to make it move along. It reads like Greek mythology fan-fiction. I hate fan-fiction.