The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter (NY: Harlequin Teen, 2011).
Kate will do anything for her cancer-stricken mother. She's devoted the last four years to caring for her mother and now they're moving from New York to her mother's hometown to fulfill her dying wish. Eden, Michigan, is an odd town, though. First there's the huge estate on the outskirts, obscured by enormous hedges, where Kate nearly has an accident when she and her mom first arrive--but the cow she thought she saw and barely avoided morphs into a dark stranger. At school, a nerdy guy immediately befriends her and the school queen bee, Ava, seems to think Kate is after her hunky boyfriend. But then Ava invites Kate to a party, which turns out to be a trick, which turns into a wildly impossible situation: Ava dies and the dark stranger revives her, right before Kate's eyes. This forces Kate to have to decide whether or not Ava will stay alive, for the dark stranger, Henry, spins a mythic tale that just might save Kate's mom, too. If Kate passes seven tests, her mom will live, but Kate will have to spend six months of each year as Henry's wife.
This is a quirky novel that managed to maintain my interest despite its oddities. The relationship between Kate and Henry is hard to understand. Kate does not seem attracted to him at all, and Henry just seems sad all the time (because he is still pining for Persephone). The seven tests are not well defined and while Kate is told she won't know what they were until the end, it still seems as if the tests should be more obvious. In the end, I felt that too much was left unstated and hidden, including whether or not Kate would or could love Henry. Kate's main reason for wanting to pass the tests is to save her mother, and this does not seem like a good foundation for a relationship. In the end, it's not clear to me that Kate should pass, but I'd probably check out the next installment in the series to see what happens. Fine for ages 14 & up. Sexual situations, alcohol drugs.
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