Book Review of Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Posted January 24, 2014 by Kara in book review, Lyn / 7 Comments

Book Review of Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth FamaMonstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on September 4th, 2012
Genres: paranormal, retellings, young adult
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences. Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean - but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

When it comes to YA books, “mermaid” usually equates to “burn it”. Mentioning mermaids in the description usually sends me running far far away from said book. When Monstrous Beauty was released, I had very little interest in it. However, Wendy at The Midnight Garden highly recommended this very book, so I added it via Kindle to my reading list. I really wish I had picked this one up a little sooner than now.


  • The world building was sweet and simple. This isn’t to say that the author slacked on her own mythology. Fama’s mermaid lore helped define her story. I enjoyed how well she seemed to cover her bases with actions and brief background explanations.
  • The characters, as a whole, made for a very interesting story. The shades in the story were, overall, the most likable. The story centered on what happened to this handful of ill-fated townspeople, and by turning the attention to the lives and the personalities of the deceased, the story transformed into a mermaid book that was not strictly about mermaids. The main character, Hester, was not the key player in the novel. Instead, Hester acted as a catalyst. Hester’s and The Other Boy’s (I can’t even remember his name) sketchy development – I can overlook it due to the brilliance of the mystery.
  • On the subject of mysteries, have to confess that I avoid mystery novels. I’m warming up to them, but…yeah. The mystery department does not seem to be my thing. I usually go mad before I solve the ending. However, I did enjoy the mystery of Monstrous Beauty and it kept me glued to the book. I enjoyed how the whole mood of the book was simply unsettling, not strictly spooky and creepy, like some mystery-fueled books.
  • Hester and Ezra. Yes, it might lean towards a touch of insta-love, but the sweet, touching budding relationship made me feel a bit on the melty side internally. Ezra just made the “Book Boyfriend” list.
  • The underwater section of the book made me slip back into The Little Mermaid mode. So awesome, and so touching.



  • I felt a little lost at times during Hester’s portion of the storyline. I’m not sure how it happened or if it was something I missed, but I was completely confused when Hester found out the mystery surrounding the church.





  • I was slightly bored with Hester’s storyline. I just couldn’t drum up the feelings for her.





  • I wanted more Syrenka!



Gif of the Magi
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(Yes, that is pizza)
Overall: The story was strong and straight forward. A majority of the characters were interesting and the tale was bittersweet and left me wanting more.  The mermaids are finally granted justice and the sea-witch was spectacular. However, the present-day portions were weaker compared to the historical sections. In the end, this was a very entertaining and left me with a whole load of feels.

7 responses to “Book Review of Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

  1. Ooo I haven’t heard of this one before and like you said the sheer mention of mermaids is usually a bad sign in YA novels so delighted to hear about a book where it works! Definitely adding this to my TBR!

  2. I loved, loved, LOVED this one. It feels like forever ago that I read it though, and I was bummed when they changed the cover from the ARC version, which was gorgeous. Anywho, I’m glad you enjoyed it! It isn’t your typical mermaid read for sure!

    • I would love to see more from the universe! The mermaids were so interesting, but I feel that we never got to really know them or see them.

  3. I always wonder why mermaid books are so hard to pull off. The audience is there, but the stories are just rarely good. But, like you, Monstrous Beauty was the exception to the rule for me.

    I also liked the world, lightly envisioned as it was. There was a real sense of history to the story for me, which helped make it engrossing.

    Ditto your love for Ezra, but SUPER DITTO the need for more Syrenka. Have you read the author’s short story set in the same world? It’s called Men Who Wish to Drown ( and it’s a little teaser when you need more from Fama.

    Very glad you liked this one, Lyn. Let’s hope there’s a new, good mermaid book in 2014. You might try The Brides of Rollrock Island, but those aren’t mermaids. But still good and exceedingly well-written.

    • I’m going to have to pick up that short story, Jess.

      I wish there were more awesome mermaid books. I would love some dark YA tale about a mermaid going all Anderson and making herself some legs, knife style. Think of The Middle Mermaid meets Angelfall.
      Someone needs to write this.