Meg Cabot's latest series is a dip in to the supernatural and mythological. Abandon features a marketing tagline of "She knows what it's like to die. Now Death wants her back." It's... sort of accurate, but rather sounds like a horror movie rather than a supernatural romance, right?

With a new spin on the Persephone myth, Abandon moves the story of a young girl drawn in to a relationship with Death to the setting of modern-day Florida... specifically, to Isla Huesos (aka Island of Bones) where secrets (among other things) don't seem to stay buried. Seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera is a bit different from the average teenager. You might point to her family's incredible wealth (her father is CEO of a large, environment-damaging company) or her parents' messy divorce that has her mother dragging Pierce back to the mother's own family and hometown. But really, the main thing that separates Pierce from every other teen (or adult, for that matter) is that she's died and returned to life. She can patiently explain the scientific descriptions of her body's shut-down and revival or what studies say the often-reported bright light might mean... but she can't actually describe what happened to her or she'd be labeled as crazy. Crazy is exactly what most people thought when she came back to life and started talking about much more than a bright light: finding herself in a place where she was pushed into a line, this man on a giant horse who she'd met before as a child, her sudden removal to a very calm room with him before he talked about her staying there forever, and the moment when she threw tea in his face to escape...

But let's back up for a second here.

The story begins with all that death experience in the past and Pierce trying to start again as a normal teenager in this new town. Cabot chooses to reveal information about Pierce's past in flashbacks, often triggered by the sudden appearance of the dark and brooding lord of the underworld, who seems to lurk around town with alarming frequency... particularly when we go in to this bit about how there isn't just one underworld and this guy is actually not Hades or anything, he's just the designated overseer for this particular underworld entry point for this zone. Hm. I'll also note that Pierce's moments where she pauses to remember something aren't clear and obviously delineated from what's going on at the moment. They're really hazy and sketchy flashbacks that make the reader wish she'd be just a little clearer and just get it all out there already. Quite honestly, that's my big criticism of the book, so I might as well get it out there, too. If Cabot is trying to distract you from the fact that this is a story about a boy (whose name is John, btw) who wants a girl back and a girl who doesn't quite want to admit she wants the boy back... well, then at least she succeeded in confusing you for long stretches of time.

When you finally have all the puzzle pieces, the story is mildly intriguing -- Pierce, as a child, met a dark man in a cemetery as she waited for her mother and grandmother to finish dealing with the details of her grandfather's funeral. Years later, Pierce drowned in the swimming pool in a theoretical accident and met him once more. This time, he was very interested in keeping her with him, but she fled (which is somewhat uncharacteristically brave of Pierce) and now she's back in the real world... unable to separate her near-death experience from the rest of her life, no matter how hard she tries (which isn't very hard at all) as stalker-John keeps popping up.

Readers of Twilight might be particularly intrigued with Abandon as it had a similar feel of fated (yet founded on nothing substantial) love that the characters struggled against in a half-hearted way while darker forces lurk about. As a set-up to a series, Abandon doesn't quite feel complete enough on its own, so you should probably be willing to commit if you embark upon this one. It's not unpleasant, but Pierce wasn't exactly a strong heroine. She was, in fact, quite a dim bulb at times (example: trying to catch a lecherous teacher in the act but failing to have a camera or something stashed away? or a plan as to how to escape?). John always has to swoop in and save her and we then proceed with the inevitable descriptions of cosmic attraction.

Abandon is a quick read and will, I imagine, have some adult cross-over fans who appreciate a twist on Greek mythology and some steamy (yet still YA acceptable) romance. Rather than give this two stars, I yielded to the fact that I did fall in to the world quite quickly, though I think a large part of the interest was in untangling the narrative as it looped around on itself. As far as the Persephone stories for this year go, I preferred The Goddess Test, but I'll still be interested on seeing where Cabot takes this series arc, as I can't quite suss out exactly where this is headed while still sticking with the mythological angle.

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