Monday, December 17, 2012

Book 13: Goddess Boot Camp

Book 13: Goddess Boot Camp
Goddess Boot Camp, by Tera Lynn Childs

This sequel to Tera Lynn Childs’ book Oh. My. Gods. follows Phoebe in her first summer on the Greek island where the school for descendants of the Greek gods is. It turns out she does not have as much control over her powers as she should, so the gods are going to give her a test – and if she doesn’t pass, well, very bad things will happen. In preparation, she needs to attend Goddess Boot Camp with all of the ten-year-olds who need training. At the same time, though, she’s training for the trials for Pythian Games with her boyfriend Griffin, who she thinks is cheating on her with his ex-girlfriend, Adara. And Adara is a counselor at Goddess Boot Camp, along with her best friend Stella, who is also Phoebe’s evil stepsister.

While Phoebe struggles with all of these things, she begins to get strange messages from an anonymous source claiming that there was more to do with her dad’s death than she knows. Phoebe already knows that he used his powers – they are descended from the goddess Nike – in football, as he was a professor football player, and that caused the gods to smote him on the field. But she learns that there was a hearing about him, and the records of it are in the Academy’s library’s secret archives. When the library takes Phoebe down to the archives, along with her best friend Nicole, they learn that the file she’s looking for is missing. Phoebe spends her time training for the test, training for the Games, searching for answers about her dad, and trying to shake the feeling that Griffin is back together with Adara.

Her suspicions grow so large that she breaks up with him. However, a few days later Phoebe learns that Griffin is not cheating on her. As Adara explains, her mother has been chosen to be a handmaiden of Apollo, which means she can’t leave Mount Olympus for twenty-five years and Adara will not see her for that long. Griffin has been helping Adara prepare for this, as his parents were banished when he was younger. Since this is supposed to be an honor, Adara did not want other people knowing that she was upset, so she asked Griffin to keep it quiet. This led to Phoebe questioning what he did with her so much that was secret, and thinking he was cheating on her.

Then, Phoebe goes to meet up with the anonymous person who sent her so many messages about her dad and who has the file. Her friends and Griffin all worry that this person will hurt her, but it turns out to be Damian, her stepfather. He explains that he wanted to distract her from everything else that was going on so she could not over-think her powers and would be able to master them better. He gives her the file, but she chooses not to read it yet.

After all, Phoebe was steadily mastering her powers with help from Stella and still training for the Games. Damian and her mom return from their honeymoon in time to see Phoebe run in the trials for the Pythian Games. While in the race, she only needs to be in the top three to make it to the actual Games. She remains steadily there the entire race, but that the end another runner appears out of nowhere. Phoebe pushes herself harder than she has before, but is able to control herself so that she doesn’t use her powers. Right at the finish line, the other racer disappears, and Phoebe places third. It turns out that the race was also her test from the gods, and the other runner was the goddess Nike, her great-grandmother.

Use of Myths:
One use of myths is the fact that Phoebe is descended from the Greek goddess Nike and goes to a school for students descended from gods where they house the records of Mount Olympus. Another is that she has to take a test to prove that she can control the powers she has from being a “goddess,” and many students new to these powers have to go to a camp to learn how to control them. Adara’s mother’s future is another example, as she is going to work on Mount Olympus for Apollo.

There is also the mention of curses, but not necessarily in a bad way. The anonymous emails Phoebe receives are cursed so that no one can figure out who is sending them and only Phoebe can read them, but as Nicole says, “A curse isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a specialized use of powers that affects only one person or a specific group of people.” Prophecies are also mentioned, as there is a prophecy that says Griffin “will ‘find his match in a daughter of victory’ – aka the goddess Nike’”.

Another myth allusion refers to the history of Xander, one of the counselors at Goddess Boot Camp and someone who had to have a test of his powers, too. The classic myth says that Narcissus was infatuated with his own reflection and stayed there so long that he died. In this book, the gods paroled him by granting him temporary immortality. After he met Xander’s mother, though, he proved that he had not learned a thing. To protect Xander from succumbing to the same fatal flaw, the gods granted him the ability to “‘see beneath the surface in others’” so that he can see who a person truly is.

Finally, another presence of myths in this novel is the Pythian Games. In Ancient Greece, they were one of four the Panhellenic Games, and occurred every two years before/after the Olympic Games. While the Olympics honored Zeus, the Pythian Games honored Apollo and and took place at Delphi. (Delphi is also the location of Apollo’s great oracle.) In this novel, when the original Olympics stopped the Pythian Games did not and instead became only open to descendants of the gods. Here, Phoebe and Griffin were invited by their cross-country coach to run in the trials, and so training for that takes up much of their time.

Childs employs a couple of different plot archetypes in this novel. One is the contest, in which the main character struggles with a rival, which could be a person, animal, or nature. Phoebe struggles with herself throughout the book in a contest against her powers. Another is the romance, involving an obstacle between the lovers. In this case, the obstacle between Griffin and Phoebe is his inability to share Adara’s secret, which threatens their relationship severely. Finally, another plot archetype present is the mystery, where the reader is invited to solve a puzzle. While Phoebe tries to figure out the information on her dad’s death, the reader tries to figure out who the anonymous contact could be.

For one, this is the sequel to Oh. My. Gods., so it connects to that novel. It also contains descendants of Greek gods who have powers, and certain ones are special only to those descended from a certain god. This compares to the Percy Jackson series, where many of the characters are children of the Greek gods and have different strengths depending on who their parent is.

Goddess Boot Camp is a fast, enjoyable read. Although at times a little predictable, Childs keeps the reader guessing, and some major plot points are not easily foreseen. Childs crams a whole lot of mythology into one novel, but does so in a believable way (as believable as it can be, of course). It feels more like a novel about teen drama than a mythology lesson. 

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