Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fury by Elizabeth Miles

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Source: Library

Summary: It’s winter break in Ascension, Maine. The snow is falling and everything looks pristine and peaceful. But all is not as it seems...
Em is thrilled that the guy she’s been into for months is finally noticing her. But if she starts things with him, there’s no turning back. Because his girlfriend is Em’s best friend. And on the other side of town, Chase’s social life is unraveling and the stress of his home life is starting to take its toll. But that’s nothing compared to what’s really haunting him. Chase has done something cruel....And it’s only a matter of time before he’s exposed.
In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. There are three girls—three beautiful, mysterious girls—to choose who will pay. Em and Chase have been chosen.

Since the recent boom in young adult paranormal literature started, I've been waiting for a young adult author to tackle the concept of Furies. Mythological beings devoted to delivering brutal justice to wrongdoers? That concept is always going to be relevant, due to the fact that wrongdoers are always going to be around. I was happy to see the cover of this book for the sheer fact that it was something different on the paranormal side of things. You won't find lovesick vampires, werewolves, or fairies in Miles's book. You also won't be finding any everlasting love for these furies (thankfully, that would have been a true bastardization of the myth). Instead, all you'll find is cold, hard vengeance.
Fury follows two main characters: Emily (known often as "Em") and Chase. These two run in the same social circle, but have little to do with one another at the beginning of the story. Em's dirty little secret is that she's in love with her best friend's boyfriend--and doesn't seem to be overly concerned about how it will affect this best friend. In fact, she seems to think that she and this boyfriend are truly in love, making it okay enough to sneak around behind Gabby's back. Chase's primary secret is his obsession with keeping up appearances. Living in a trailer doesn't fit into his perfect popular world, so he does everything he can in order to keep up a good front. Worse than that, he takes out his past humiliation on a former friend, pushing her over the edge and gaining the attentions of the Furies. When these Furies strike, they are not merciful in the slightest. These Furies believe apologetically in the concept, "An eye for an eye."
The number one thing that stuck with me about this book was the fact that Miles didn't pull back or sugar coat the situations at all. Furies are known for being merciless and harsh, and that's exactly what they were. There was no sappy love story in which a Fury tamed her vindictive sadism in order to be in some desperate relationship with a mortal (I'll repeat my "thankfully" again). So many paranormal books rely on making a supernatural being fall in love with another supernatural being or a human. It gets really repetitive. This one stood on its own, using supernatural beings to affect a sleepy Maine town's inhabitants without making one of the Furies a slave to passion. Their behavior results in horrific consequences, especially in Chase's experience. Not only was Miles able to stand out from the usual paranormal books with a new concept to re-imagine, but she was as ruthless as the Furies to her characters. There wasn't a perfectly wrapped-up ending to see in this one. This is going to be a trilogy, so I suppose I'll have to wait to see what the true ending is, but for now the reader is left with a feeling of unease for the characters in the story--at least the ones that are left.
Originally my issue with this book was the main characters. I did not find either of them particularly likable at all. Characterization is incredibly important to me, so due to my lack of care for both Em and Chase, I had a bit of a problem getting involved in this story at first. Em especially did not endear herself to me at all, as she was so willing to betray her best friend in favor of some guy that clearly was not actually in love with her. She seemed sort of desperate and annoying. Her behavior towards JD was almost as bad. She took advantage of his feelings for her all the time, but was too self-focused to realize what she was doing was wrong. Chase was not much better. His obsession with being popular and the elusive  just came off as pathetic to me. I had trouble sympathizing with either of them, making it difficult for me to be interested in their fates. The other mortal characters are not much better. Gabby comes off as naive and superficial, whereas her boyfriend is an entitled jerk who is far too used to getting what he wants. I only liked one character (this being Drea) and she was a secondary character that only had one or two actual scenes in the scope of the novel in order to explain the idea of Furies to Em. This completely annoyed me at first. I thought I was just going to toss this one aside and not think about it until the next book in the series came out (because of course, this is a trilogy, one that JUST STARTED, which also did not endear me to the book).
I was wrong. I continued to think about it, far more than I ever thought I would. It takes a good writer to keep me involved in the story even when I dislike the characters. Elizabeth Miles pulled this off. This is what I realized: the thing about these characters? They're incredibly real. Teenagers (and everyone else, but since we're specifically speaking about young adult fiction, teenagers it is) tend to screw up a lot. They're not always likable. They're selfish and can be cruel to others, only able to see things from their point of view. Chase and Em are the embodiment of the negative characteristics of teenagers, which would probably explain why I had such difficulty sympathizing with them. However, after their behavior earns them the attentions of the Furies, they become more deserving of a bit of sympathy. They go through serious pressure, humiliation, and pain as a result of the Furies. 
If you're looking for a young adult Greek myth re-imagining that can hold its own against the usual tide paranormal romance books, look for Elizabeth Miles's Fury.  I'll definitely be reading numbers two and three in the trilogy, whenever they make themselves known.

Rating: 4 - good.

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