Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs

A modern girl’s comedic odyssey in a school filled with the descendants of Greek gods.

When Phoebe’s mom returns from Greece with a new husband and moves them to an island in the Aegean, Phoebe’s plans for her senior year and track season are ancient history. Now she must attend the uberexclusive academy, where admission depends on pedigree, namely, ancestry from Zeus, Hera, and other Greek gods. That’s right, they’re real, not myth, and their teen descendants are like the classical heroes—supersmart and superbeautiful with a few superpowers. And now they’re on her track team! Armed only with her Nikes and the will to win, Phoebe races to find her place among the gods.

Grade: C+/D-

Thanks to JL for the book!


Before I wrote this review, I did a quick blog search for others’ reviews of it. And what I found stumped me—this book is adored everywhere except for a few places that do like it, just had qualms about the character development. I’m wondering just how this became everyone’s pet.

... I must’ve not read the same novel as everyone else.

In the first three pages, it’s established Phoebe’s a runner, her mom’s a therapist, and her mom’s getting married with a man she’s known for six days (and tells Phoebe this right after Phoebe’s done running a very important race. Like, in the middle of the track!). And she says it’s love. Oh, and they’re also moving to Greece because the dude’s Greek and “can’t leave his job”.

First of all, is it just me, or is informing your daughter that you’re moving her thousands of miles overseas in the middle of a cross country meet about the most inopportune moment in the history of crappy timing? Who drops that kind of a bomb out of the blue like that? A therapist? It doesn’t stop here either—when they’re getting to the island where they’ll be living in Greece, on the ferry ride, Damian (that’s hubby-hunk) explains that the school Phoebe is going to is populated by descendants of Greek gods.

Yes. In the ferry.

And they expect this to sink in quickly and for her to keep in quiet.

Just—oh, I’ll let you form your own opinions. Let’s go back to the opening scene.

So, the mom’s a psycho-therapist who expects her senior daughter to move to an isolated Greek island because she fell in love with Damian in the six days she was in Greece for a family reunion with her late husband, Phoebe’s father. (Phoebe wasn’t able to make it because of this Very Important Race that would decide if she’d get a scholarship to her dream school, USC.) She’s all blushing, heaving bosoms, and being clingy like a teenager to this Damian.


I’m wondering why there was this opening scene at all. Why not just begin with Phoebe in Greece? And why make the mom a therapist? Why not one of those obsessive-compulsive, needy women who would actually move halfway across the world with a man they’ve known for six days and claim it’s love?

I’m sorry, but the plot’s got more holes than the ozone layer.

It doesn’t really get much better. Characters: all clichés (right down to the misunderstood environmentalist, obsessively tree-hugging best friend named Granola by her hippie parents), never really developed (the mother goes on random bouts of psycho-babble, but frankly, given her lack of consideration to her daughter’s needs, namely not moving in with some random dude!!! make her a caricature to me), and most of the time nonsensical (she meets Love Interest #1, Griffin, in a beach run where he just miraculously show up so we get the Fateful Meeting of Lovebirds—apparently Psycho Mom didn’t teach her not to speak to strangers, especially descendant-of-gods who might zap her to Saturn strangers).

The writing lacks transition. There’s no logical connection between what happens in the story. I mean, the sudden move to Greece is semi-explained in the end, but I just don’t buy it—it’s too much make-believe (even for a book where the Greek gods are alive) that it’s like fantasy within fantasy.

The plot’s....meh. I could’ve done without the whole Nicole-Griffin drama, and frankly, I thought the whole thing was a little too dramatic and rushed. The actual, primary plot is more predictable than night following day, but by the point where all is revealed, I didn’t really care anymore.

I thought the concept was brilliant—Greek gods having descendants, descendants having to work for their power, the high school clique scene (determined by which god is in your family. Emos are the “Hades harem”, so on, so forth), etc. It was really original, and being a Greek raised knowing mythology myself, I thought this book could’ve gone deeper. It’s obvious Ms Childs knows the gods. The question is: When will we get to see more of the premise and less of these overly comical setups that are neither commonsensible nor funny?

I, for one, found this disappointing. I just cannot do with clichés, y’all. Perhaps if I was a little less anal-retentive... I’m not sure this would work, even then. Liked the premise; not so with the execution.


WannabeWriter said...

I actually noticed all the things you mentioned in your review. I'm one of those people who looks for sparkling gems of prose ( heck, I'll even take purple prose ) and the writing wasn't as good as it could have been with a set-up like that. I mean, the characters could've been so amazing with their backstories, and the plot could've been tighter if it'd been thought about just a tiny bit more. I don't know, the execution just wasn't all it could have been. I still liked it, but it could have been better.

<3 Great review, of course.

Amee said...

Thanks for the honest review. I may still read this eventually but it's now at the bottom of my wish list. I can handle contrivances but this one seems to have quite a few that even I might dislike it.

Great review! You never fail to entertain me. :)

Anonymous said...

I picked this up at the library a few weeks ago, but now I'm glad I returned it without reading it.

Now I understand why author's are intimidated by your reviews. You don't sugarcoat anything.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I was one of the reviews you mentioned looking at which praised the book. I still really liked it, and didn't notice any of the things you mentioned. I mean, your whole "WTF" with the mom revealing this move to Greece and all that is SUPPOSED to happen. That's why Phoebe is so PO'd about it. Because it was sprung on her so quickly and it was crappy timing. That was the whole point- it is supposed to make you say "WTF?"

As for the mother being clingy on Damian, while I was a bit put off by it while reading, it's love. Love makes you feel young again when you're old so if the mom was acting like a teenager in the book, that was the reason. And what's so wrong with that?

Anyway, since you want to know how people seem to love/adore it, I can only offer my opinion of how I read books. As I'm sure you've noticed, I'm just very easy to please. So something like this with a great concept- I'm completely on board with it and basically already love it. Perhaps that makes me a bad reviewer or whatever, but that's just how I roll (and yes, I really did just use that phrase- don't worry, it won't happen again).

Still, good on you for writing this. I couldn't type something like "being honest" or "stating your opinion" because then it feels like no one else, even if they're praising the book, is being honest with their review, which isn't true. Which is why I'm always a bit wary when I say that you're "honest" in your reviews. Perhaps I should just say "brutally honest"? I don't know.

Anyway, I'll stop rambling.

Steph said...

Hey y'all :P Thanks for stopping by - I love it when we have our comment-section conversations!

WbW - I tried clicking on your site but it's private! Is that intentional?

Kels - Haha I'm afraid I don't. :) I'll let that be my special thing so I know some other reviewers do it way better!

Ames - I hate taking credit for entertainment when basically shredding another's work -- oh let's just talk over this on IM :P

BC - Heh thanks for disagreeing! I love this kinds of conversations. What bugged me is that it was too sudden a move for a therapist. If she's a good one (which we're led to believe she is), she'd know the tumultuous nature of the move and the instability it would cause for Phoebe, who was about to graduate. Granted, there was an actual motive at the end, but I keep fixating on her occupation: What kind of a therapist would spring this on a person? It's a huge plot hole, and begs the question - why does her mom need to be a therapist? Why not something else? She gives up her practice anyway, and it's never important for the story. I get that I'm being too obsessive, but it's the details that distinguish good writing from the bad.

On your other point, this is purely a personal take on the subject, but I believe love developed, not created on the spot, and throughout the narrative, the only indication I got that they were in love was the awkward PDA every once in a while. And like I said before - six days is not enough time to fall in love with someone you didn't know before. This is largely a personal thing, I suppose - some people might go for it. Like I mentioned above: I need to be convinced of love, not told about it.

(And this goes hand in hand with the lack of character development.)

That said, the only thing that makes a bad reviewer is not giving your honest thoughts. I have my take to my blog - you have yours. It's okay to be easy to please :P I'm sure many find me too hard to please, and I'm sure there are those out there who wished I would stop criticizing EVERYTHING. We all have our own personal style! :P


Alea said...

I guess maybe what I've heard about therapists being unable to see their own problems is true :p By what you've talked about, a therapist is an awful choice for the mother's occupation! It sounds sort of like insert random job here _____.

Ahh! Part of my amazon order I bought myself for my birthday appears to shipping soon and that includes Teach Me! I just read in the Flux catalog about a book called How It's Done- a girl gets into a relationship with a college professor, have you heard anything about that one?

Khy said...

Hmm, I just bought this one. Maybe I will have a more positive reaction- we shall see.

Great review, by the way.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I know you read my review and know that I also had major problems with the first chapter. It almost made me stop reading. BUT I kept reading and I was very entertained. So in fact, I'd give it at least a B, if I gave grades.

Ink Mage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ink Mage said...

Hahahahaha, you're review is making me laugh! I haven't read Oh. My. Gods because, despite everyone's adoring reviews, the cover and plot made it sound exactly like you described it! I wasn't all that interested in it before, but now I think I definitely won't read it. Cliché and unbelievable plots really bug me. :-)

Sorry for two comments, I realized I had some typos.

Carrie Ryan said...

Really interesting review -- has given me a lot to think about in terms of my own writing! I haven't read this one yet because I was actually working on a book about a boarding school with the descendants of the Greek gods that I put aside to write FHT. What are the odds!?!

Gabbi said...

Um, I know you have a weird thing for fugly covers...can I just say that - although I haven't read this book, don't plan to, so therefore have no opinion on it either way - that cover is really really ugly! When I first saw the shoes hanging around the statue, I thought they were ears! Also, it looks kind of like a Harlequin set in Greece, judging by the cover.

Eh. Great review, anyway!

Anonymous said...

a good review doesn't suggest HOW the book could have been written. only what was wrong with it. you didn't do this in the whole review just that in the beginning so it wasn't entirely meh. but other then that your awesome and you know it! ;)

Steph said...

Heeeeeeeey I'm so late in replying here! Apologies!

I'm glad people agreed, enjoyed, etc this review. Hehe *gloats*

L - to each their own. I'm surprised to see we disagreed though - our tastes usually correlate!

Carrie - hehe it's kind of cool to see any of my reviews giving writers something to think about. :D

Gabbi - I love fugly covers. They give me something to talk about. :)

Anon - Thanks for the tip! I tend to subscribe to the "free for all" review format, but I'm always open to suggestions on how to improve. :)))


Lenore Appelhans said...

Guess I don't want Zeus to smite me - ha!

And I thought the cover was pretty clever after having read the book.

nadine said...

I was really looking forward to reading this book. But I don't know anymore. I'm not really one to notice every hair out of place but now I might be looking for them. I'm having a Golden Compass moment I don't know, maybe I'll still enjoy it.

Sade Jasal said...

Hey! I completely agree with your review. I really hated Phoebe's mother. It's obvious even with her educational background that she's no expert when it comes to understanding Phoebe's emotions.... but I do like the concept of being a descendant of a Greek god. And you're right, things did feel rushed! It wasn't the best but it was entertaining.

Post a Comment

Hey! For some reason, this embedded comment form makes most people click twice before the comment is processed and published. It's not you - it's just that it's a new Blogger feature with kinks and all that. (But I adore it and don't wanna get rid of it!) I removed Captcha to make the process easier. You don't have to rewrite the comments twice; just click on SUBMIT twice and it should work. If not, email me. Thanks! -Steph