Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book 4: Oh, My Gods by Tera Lynn Childs

Book 4:
Oh, My Gods, by Tera Lynn Childs

Phoebe is close to achieving her dream: as long as she keeps a B average and keeps running the way she has been, the coaches at the University of Southern California will give her a full-ride scholarship. But then her mother tells her that she’s met the man of her dreams and they’re getting married – and they’re moving to Greece to be with him because he is the headmaster of an incredibly prestigious school. As if this wasn’t bad enough, once they move Phoebe learns that all of the students at the Academy are descendants of the Greek gods.

Phoebe struggles to adjust, which includes dealing with an evil stepsister, but meets some friends to help navigate the school. She also makes the cross-country team – but on a probationary level, because Griffin, another runner, sabotaged her with his powers. Now, Phoebe can only make the USC team if she comes in the first three places at her first race and if she works harder academically than she ever has before. She makes a deal with her evil step-sister, Stella, and as a part of it begins working closer with Griffin. Just when she realizes and accepts that she has feelings for him, though, it turns out that the deal with Stella was actually a plot to humiliate her, and Griffin was in on it.

At the big race, she wins, and at the finish line her friends from California are waiting. But becomes convinced that someone used their powers to help her win, meaning she cheated. After speaking to Damian, though, it turns out that her powers were just trying to be used, and she is a great-granddaughter of the goddess Nike. Griffin also talks to her and tells her that he broke up with his evil girlfriend and wants to be with her. Phoebe also speaks to her friends from California, who tell her that while they would love to go to college together at USC, maybe somewhere else would be better, as they already want to go so somewhere else. In the epilogue set in December at the formal wedding of Phoebe’s mom and Damian, we learn that Phoebe has been training her powers and can hold her own against Stella, she is still good friends with her friends from California, and she is dating Damian and they plan to study an extra year and then go to Oxford together. All is well in her life. 

Use of Myths:
The largest components of myths in this novel are in the plot, as the students and teachers at the Academy are descended from gods. This impacts other parts of the plot. Because everyone (including herself) believes that Phoebe is not descended from one of the gods, her social situation at the school is not good. In fact, some students call her a derogatory term for someone not descended. Other than social situation, myths also influenced the plot because when Phoebe finds out that she is descended from Nike, she understands why she loves running so much, which is another large part of the plot.

In terms of archetypes, there aren’t many in this book. Damian, Phoebe’s stepfather, fulfills the father figure nicely as he guides Phoebe through entering this new world. He also leads the Academy but also tries to protect Phoebe from Stella as well as those who don’t like her because they don’t think she’s like them.

Call to Adventure
Mom tells Phoebe that they’re moving to Greece
Supernatural Aid
Damian tells Phoebe about the Academy and the Greek gods
Threshold Guardian(s)
Phoebe arrives at the Academy for the first time
Acquires a helper
Phoebe meets Nicole and Tony
Acquires a mentor
Phoebe goes to cross country trials and meets Coach Lenny
Experiences challenges and temptations
Phoebe tries to adjust to her new school’s academics, social scene, and running demands.
Meets another helper
Griffin runs with Phoebe
Has a great revelation at the abyss (death/rebirth)
Phoebe learns that Stella set her up for embarrassment with Griffin and believes that Griffin was in on it
Goes through a transformation
At the meet, Phoebe begins to glow and thinks that Tony tried to help her cheat. She wins the race, but believes she cheated.
Damian reveals that Phoebe is descended from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. She apologizes for accusing Tony of helping her cheat.
Receives the gift of the Goddess
Phoebe comes to term with her new life and makes new dreams. She knows that she will remain close with her friends from California but she no longer wants to go to USC.
Epilogue; Phoebe plans on staying another year and going to Oxford with Griffin

Oh, My Gods plays on the same idea of godly parentage that the Percy Jackson series and Starcrossed does. The three previous books that I have read thus far, along with this one, are all based on the same basic idea that the Greek gods have mortal children. However, this novel takes it in a different direction: rather than focusing on the impact that the gods – and their descendants – has on the world at large, this novel displays them as living in their own little world. Instead of dealing with monsters and prophecies (for the most part), the focus is on the social structure and dynamic within the school. The cliques, and the alliances or hostility among them, are arranged by parentage. To some extent, this is similar to the Percy Jackson books, as the students live at Camp Half-Blood according to their parent and like or dislike each other generally depending on their relationships among the gods. However, Camp Half-Blood is very much its own society, while the Academy is just like any other high school.

At the end of the day, though, what makes Oh, My Gods stand out among the other books I have read so far is that it takes many normal high school issues – parent remarrying, moving schools, new cliques, anger at a parent for “ruining my life,” young love, betrayal, etc. – and puts them within the realm of the Greek gods.

In comparison to the other books I have read so far for this project, Oh, My Gods seemed like a little bit of a joke. Yes, it was fun, and full of high school drama, but Phoebe’s emotions were all over the place and she changed her mind so much it was unrealistic. I’ve known many, many high school girls – I was one myself of course, and I also have a younger sister – but I have never known someone whose mind was changed this quickly and who wasn’t considered crazy by everyone who knew her. I liked Phoebe, and I felt that her reaction to her mother moving her across the world was realistic and understandable. However, I felt like she went from a reasonable and likeable young woman to a crazy person during the space of the novel. If Childs had made the book longer and made Phoebe’s character changes more gradual and realistic, then the book would have been much better.

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