For much of her life, Pierce has been haunted by a mysterious young man. She first met him when she was a little girl, but was told he was a figment of her imagination. When she was fifteen, she had a near-death experience and met him again in a strange landscape. Several times since, when she was threatened, the man appeared and put the threatening party in a world of hurt. Now, Pierce and her mother have moved to Isla Huesos, Florida — Mom’s hometown — for a fresh start. Thus begins Abandon, Meg Cabot’s adaptation of the Hades/Persephone myth and the first in a projected trilogy.
I love the Hades/Persephone myth, but unfortunately I found this retelling a disappointment. One major reason is the pacing. Pierce spends much of the narrative jumping back and forth between the present and the aforementioned events of her past. I’ve seen this technique work, but here it’s frustrating, perhaps because so very little is happening in the present-day storyline. I wanted fewer flashbacks and more going on in Pierce’s present — or else I wanted more material about her earlier life. I’d have relished a big, thick, meaty book that followed her closely for many years. An added bonus of that approach is that Cabot would have had to flesh Pierce out more so that she could carry a long saga of a book.
Which brings me to the other major problem with Abandon, which is Pierce herself. Note that the girl on the cover appears to be asleep. This is all too accurate. Pierce frequently compares herself to Snow White: she tells us she’s as rich and pretty and tender-hearted as a princess, and that after her near-death experience, she went into a metaphorical glass coffin and drifted aimlessly through her days. Trouble is, Pierce is still in that glass coffin. She has little in the way of initiative or curiosity. Much of the book consists of Pierce being maneuvered around town by various characters and having information unloaded upon her. About the only thing she does on her own initiative is try to push her cousin and her new friend into eating with some bullies (she doesn’t know they’re bullies yet, but she has reason to suspect). As for curiosity, I’d have been vastly happier with Abandon if Pierce had spent more time looking into mythology and Isla Huesos history for herself instead of having to be told everything in one long expository scene.
For me, the setting of Isla Huesos was the most interesting aspect of the story. Isla Huesos (“bone island”) is based on the real-life Key West, which the Spanish called Cayo Hueso (“bone key”). I enjoyed the bits of history, the way Cabot worked the Coffin Night tradition into the plot, and the way hurricanes and the recent Gulf oil spill are shown as integral parts of the island’s life. Abandon piqued my curiosity about Key West history, which I looked up on the internet after reading. [SPOILER HERE, HIGHLIGHT THE TEXT IF YOU WANT TO READ IT:]I was also intrigued by the tassels as a symbol of the evil Furies. It made me wonder. My best guess is that the tassels are shrunk-down cats-o’-nine-tails. [END SPOILER]
Abandon ends on a cliffhanger but without much having happened (at least in the present timeline) to lead up to it. I don’t think I’ll continue on to the next book.