White, Kiersten. The Chaos of Stars. Harper Collins, 2014. 304p. ISBN: 9780062135926. $17.99. MS, HS ****
Being a teenager isn’t easy, even if your parents are actually gods. For Isadora, ordinary teenage difficulties are compounded when she learns that, unlike her parents Osiris and Isis, she is not immortal. She needs to get away and figure out who she really is and what her life is going to be like. Meanwhile her usually over-protective parents need to get Isadora out of Egypt because they sense impending danger. It’s a win-win situation when they pack her up and send her off to live with her older brother Cyrus in San Diego. It’s only for a few months until her mother, pregnant again, safely delivers Isadora’s newest sibling and can gather her strength again. Yet when Isadora arrives in San Diego, she must contend with a job at a museum setting up an exhibit honoring her family, making new friends, resisting the temptation of the unbearably handsome Ry, and also the unsettling feeling that things may not be as safe here as her parents thought.
This book has such a promising premise: a contemporary romance mythology mashup with the daughter of Isis and Osiris as the protagonist. I really enjoyed the beginning and the setup in Egypt where readers are introduced to the characters (most of them gods) and get to know them as people. The dynamics of family become so real even in this enormous, mythic setting. Then the story moves to San Diego and it takes on a beachy romp feel which was a bit jarring. Isadora’s sheltered upbringing results in an odd mix of things that she knows and doesn’t know, some of which are hard to explain. At times it feels like whether she knows something or doesn’t is only there to move the plot along. And it is a plot that needs moving along: a family revenge drama that plays out as a thriller set in a museum.
There was a promising theme through the majority of the book with a strong female protagonist who refuses romance and motherhood. That was unfortunately spoiled when the escalation of the tension leads Isadora to completely fall apart and rely on the love interest she has been fastidiously denying throughout the book. I was similarly disappointed by a number of unfortunate references to bodies and body-shape that are not particularly body-positive and some scenes (like one where Isadora takes off her shirt for no necessary reason and runs through the rest of the scene in a sports bra) that feel like they are written specifically for a feature film. There are definitely things to like about this book including the way it centers a strong women protagonist and the way it weaves ancient mythologies into contemporary storytelling. There are also some charming swear word alternatives like “floods!” and with no sex, no drinking, and relatively little violence, this makes for a safe recommendation for middle school as well as high school readers. This isn’t my first choice, but you could certainly hand it to readers of tension-filled romances who like an infusion of mythology or atmosphere.
-Andrea Mullarkey, Berkeley Public Library – Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch