Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs

Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs

Release Date: May 1, 2008
Publisher: Speak
Pages: 264
Format: Paperback
Source: Author
Challenges: N/A

When Phoebe's mom returns from Greece with a new husband and plans to move to an island in the Aegean Sea, Phoebe's well-plotted senior year becomes ancient history. Now, instead of enjoying a triumphant track season and planning for college with her best friends, Phoebe is trying to keep her head above water at the ├╝berexclusive Academy. If it isn't hard enough being the new kid in school, Phoebe's classmates are all descendants of the Greek gods! When you're running against teammates with superpowers, dealing with a stepsister from Hades, and nursing a crush on a boy who is quite literally a god, the drama takes on mythic proportions!

You can learn most of what you need to know about Oh. My. Gods. from looking at the cover (maybe it's a faux pax of me to say so, but it's true). The book is cute but bland, a fast beach read that you start and finish in one sitting then walk away. You enjoy a lingering chuckle and a few daydreams about Grecian beaches, then you move onto the next book. The protagonist, Phoebe, is a run of the mill 17-year-old girl. She has one of those adorable rambling voices that borders on the verge of annoying but manages to stay endearing throughout, and an ability to stay true to herself that is admirable.

Also admirable was her restraint in dealing with her so-impulsive-it's-not-even-cute mother. I mean, I'm sorry, but true love or no true love, getting engaged to a man you've known for a week that your daughter's never met? Upending your family on a whim? Marrying a guy whose teenage daughter you don't know? I know she's supposed to be a psychologist, but I think Phoebe's mother needs a psychologist. If she was my mother, my meltdown would have been severely more aggressive than Phoebe's was.

Fortunately, because this is fiction, everything works out more or less. Which is good, because I enjoyed the strange family dynamics in the story. It was interesting seeing these four people who essentially know nothing about one another try to build a single family unit. Each relationship was unique: mother and daughter, father and daughter, father and step-daughter, step-sister and step sister. It was fun to watch the relationship between Stella and Phoebe evolve over the course of the book. Stella may appear to be your typical mean girl, but there is depth and compassion below the snide commentary, if you're willing to drag out the shovel and dig for it.

The depictions of the high school community were nothing earth shattering. Truthfully, I was disappointed at how dutifully cultural stereotypes were played into throughout the book. Decedents of Ares, the god of war, are all jocks; decedents of Hades, the god of the underworld, are all goths, and so on and so forth. Don't fit into a clearly delineated group and you're an automatic loser outcast (even bigger than the loser outcast decedents of Hephaestus, who are stereotypical WOW players and gamers). I'm not denying that the world--high school in particular--is filled with cliques, but this seemed overblown and comical. In a school with such established groups Phoebe is the worst kind of outcast; she's the only student in the entire school who does not possess any godly blood, so basically she's toast from the moment she sets foot on campus.

And true to expectation, underdog Phoebe falls for a guy she meets on the beach, with whom she exchanges exactly 26 perfunctory words, but of course, it's love at first sight. And, of course, she shows up to school a few hours later to learn that he's Mr. Uuber Popular, complete with a completely douchey attitude and the snottiest of petite and pretty girlfriends.

It's not like the 'really hot really popular jerk love interest who turns out to have a soft side and hidden depths' is a new angle, but it was really not working here. Phoebe? Darlin? Listen to me. I don't care if this guy has a face to set sail a thousand ships type hot with abs that inspired the world's first body shots or that the two of you have the same hobby (NEWS FLASH: lots of people like to go running), he's a big jerk. Not a little jerkish with the ability to be redeemed, he's just a big flaming bag of jerk. I didn't feel any chemistry between the two of them, and even in the moments when he showed interest in her, I just wasn't willing to forgive him for being such an ass hat before.

Even the best of us (and by the best of us, I obviously mean Mulan), bite off more than we can chew sometimes. At first I was perplexed that the publisher's summary seemed like such an inaccurate representation of what this book really is, but when I tried to think up a summary of my own, I had a lot of trouble. Oh. My. Gods. has a handful of central plot lines, so much so that I wasn't really sure what the book was about until the very end (and even still there remains some confusion). There were so many primary characters with their own backstories and issues that no one got the attention they deserved. I'm not one of those people that needs all of my questions answered and plot lines tied up in neat bows, but this book seemed to leave way more than the usual loose ends.

While I can see in the book some attempts to work past stereotypes (the "everyone has hidden depths and reasons for the person that they are" angle is worked really hard here), all it manages to do is play right into the hands of those very stereotypes, not to mention it does so badly. There is so much going on in the book that there isn't enough space for any event or person to develop, therefore everything seems flat. Maybe I wouldn't have hated Griffin (the love interest) if we could have gotten to know him better, but in the limited time we spent with him he seemed like nothing more than a shallow, image-conscious jerk. His "sudden reformation" felt either completely faked or completely unrealistic, and I thought so much less of Pheobe for liking him. I give Oh. My. Gods. 2 out of 5 Stars. There were definitely parts of the novel that made me laugh and smile, but I felt they were largely overwhelmed by the lack of depth and focus of the story.

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