Saturday, September 24, 2011

H.Y.P.E. Project: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Beware: spoilers for Starcrossed lie beyond this point.

Title: Starcrossed
Author: Josephine Angelini
Publisher: HarperCollins/HarperTeen
Release Date: May 31, 3011
Pages: 487 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Read it on my Kindle for the H.Y.P.E. Project (details here)

Starcrossed (Starcrossed, #1)
How do you defy destiny?
Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it's getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she's haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they're destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.
As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.


"She was hunkered down on her knees, her face covered by her filthy hair, moaning names and saying "blood for blood" as she hit her forehead repeatedly against the wall." This is a quote from Starcrossed (the page can't be cited due to reading it as an ebook) about one of the Furies, but this is also an accurate description of me once I finished reading this book.

For sixteen years, Helen has lived on the calm, small, and very boring island of Nantucket and wished she could go somewhere else. Then Lucas Delos and his family moved to town, and Helen introduced herself to them by attempting to kill Lucas in the middle of school. According to Lucas and his family, they and Helen are Scions, demigod descendants of the Greek gods, and the Furies are forcing to play roles they have forced on others throughout history. Helen and Lucas have broken one part of the cycle of blood for blood, but they will still be forced to play the starcrossed lovers.


Not very good. Helen is surprisingly stupid for how smart she supposedly is (telling the reader about a character is bad due to contradictory characterization like this) and a massive Mary Sue the likes of which I have not seen in a long time. All the descriptions of how beautiful, talented, perfect, and flawless she was made me want to puke. I would like to see Lucas put through a shredder. Wait, Helen isn't the only one with the Idiot Ball; everyone has a personal Idiot Ball they carry at all times and clutch like pearls toward the end of the novel, when Daphne comes in and everyone believes her despite her being who she is. Otherwise, the characters are unremarkable.


While the novel does have a plot and is generally well-paced (by this, I mean the reader doesn't have to wait until they are three-fourths through the lengthy novel to find out what is going on), it still manages to be boring. The plot and pacing, as derivative as they are (and not of The Illiad and Romeo and Juliet, the two works that inspired this novel), would have earned the novel another star if not for the outstanding sexism and misogyny detailed in the next section.


This has to be one of the most sexist pieces of trash I have ever read, if not the most sexist piece of trash. Helen has no say in her relationship with Lucas; she is subject to his whims and the boundaries and terms of their relationship are solely defined by him. It's all about what he wants and what he can handle and nothing she ever says is taken into account. It is always up to him to impose control on Helen so she won't tempt him because everything she does tempts him, and she has to stop tempting him or else bad things will happen. It's always the woman's fault because she tempted men into doing it, you see.

Lucas never puts any trust in Helen and will not let her be in control of her own sexuality. He even makes all of her decisions (with only minor, temporary objections from Helen)! I won't even go into the implications of needing to destroy a feminine object of power to free men from their lust. I have lot to say about "A lady never cheapened herself by using foul language" and most of them begin with a word starting with f. No lady is any less of a lady for cursing and sexist rhetoric like this really grinds my gears.

This quote is telling of the novel:
""She hasn't been feeling well," he explained to Castor, who looked on with sympathy.

""I have a daughter," Castor replied gently as if that explained everything."
However it is meant, that is not a joke. That is flat-out misogyny and it only gets worse throughout the novel.


The stuff of my nightmares. It tells the reader absolutely everything, especially if it's as unimportant as what car the teacher drives or that a one-off nameless character has a leather fetish. It seems like a Herculean task for it to show the reader something or stay on-task. The imagery is atrocious and the narration is constantly cheating. It's one thing to change to another character's point of view for a chapter because it's important to the plot; it's another thing to do it for exactly one paragraph or even sentence or when it has no importance in any possible way. Even the action scenes were made boring thanks to the info-dump heavy, clunky writing.


There is one thing that can't even be called a plot hole or hole in logic; the only proper term for it is a brain fart. Close to the end, Helen and Lucas decide they can't be together because they're first cousins. This would pass me by without comment (I am unbothered by first cousins being together) if it weren't for the fact that marrying your first cousin is legal in Massachusetts, where Nantucket is located. In Spain, where Lucas's family comes from, it is legal to marry your first cousin. Finally, the ancient Greeks Helen and Lucas are descended from practiced--guess what?--first-cousin marriage.

They are not cousins after all (I suppose someone said there couldn't be any genuine conflict in the novel), but the point is that at the end of the novel, they believe they are. Someone should have done their research because if it's supposed to be a conflict of some sort, it shouldn't be legal from every possible angle. There is the social unpopularity to consider, but Lucas and Helen don't seem like the type that would let that stop them. When you're truly in love, public opinion no longer matters.

Was it worth the hype?

As many did, I heard about it when Angelini received a seven-figure advance for the trilogy Starcrossed is the beginning of. Even then, I took issue with the novel; its sexist pitch of being "Percy Jackson for teenage girls" told me this would not be the book for me (my thoughts on the pitch are better explained here). Alas, the H.Y.P.E. Project is about hyped books and such a massive advance gave Starcrossed a lot of hype, so I read it anyway. I do not always make smart decisions, as you can see.

It is wonderful that Angelini's advance got her out of a rough situation, but I do not believe, based on what I have read, that the trilogy will be worth the advance it got or recoup all the money spent on it. The novel is most certainly not worth the hype. I will not be reading the next installments, but I do hope there is not a happy ending. Star-crossed, as you know, means ill-fated. Star-crossed people do not have a happy ending and if Lucas and Helen end up with a happy ending, we have another case of people not knowing how to use words correctly.

Bonus cover section

Pictures of it you see on the Internet, such as the one I used above, are very plain and don't seem likely to catch the eye, but they're slightly more noticeable in real life, such as if you see them in a bookstore. They have a certain metallic shine to them that catches light well, effectively making it a noticeable cover despite how truly plain it is. I take issue with Lauren Kate's author blurb on the cover, though; YA novels in general should not be allowed to use starcrossed and saga, among other words, until they learn how to use them correctly.

0 stars!

What am I reading next?: dancergirl by Carol M. Tanzman