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Sunday, June 6, 2021

Book Review: Constellations of Scars by Melissa Eskue Ousley

Constellations of Scars
by Melissa Eskue Ousley
June 9th, 2021
Published by: Midnight Tide Publishing
Genres: Adult, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy
“An indelible story of loving yourself in a world of dreadful realities.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Not all gifts are a blessing. Some are a curse.

When Amelia turned 12, she began growing pearls. Every month, a crop of beautiful pearls bursts from the skin on her back. Her mother, Denise, believes her daughter is blessed, and sells the pearls to put food on the table. Amelia sees her condition as a curse. As the pearls form, her body aches and her skin grows feverish. The harvest of pearls brings temporary relief from the pain, but leaves her back marred by scars. Denise hides Amelia away from the world, worried that Amelia’s gift will be discovered and she will be abducted for the wealth she can provide. Now a young woman, Amelia realizes she has become her mother’s captive, and plans her escape. When she runs away from home, she finds a new family in a troupe of performers at a museum of human oddities. She soon discovers the world is much more dangerous than her mother feared.

What I Liked
The cover is simply beautiful. It was one of the main reasons I decided to take a chance on a YA novel. The other was the uniqueness of the premise. Who wouldn’t want to read about a human oyster?

The author’s description of what life’s like for someone who has a chronic health condition rings true. Other people’s attitudes towards the said person and how the debilitating condition creates a new normal were both done very well.

The writing flows smoothly, which made it easier for me to slip into Amelia’s world.

What I Didn’t Like
While the premise was original, it wasn’t the highlight of the book. Nowhere is the reason for Amelia’s condition explained the way. For instance, Gabe’s hirsute appearance is related to hypertrichosis. So, if those other circus characters had nothing supernatural about them, why not explain Amelia’s? In addition, maybe if she had sought out her dad — the guy walked out on her mom — we could have known more. So, we end up with a story that would remain pretty much the same if we took the pearls out of the equation. Not so special anymore?

Secondly, we do see Amelia struggle a bit in the beginning when she runs away from home. But all her problems are magically solved very quickly. Didn’t seem very real to me.

Amelia knew Peter had a temper and that there was something off about him. Yet, she reaches for him and not the not-so-good-looking Gabe. That was vain for a girl who should know better than to judge people over their looks. And when she and Gabe get together at the end, it made me feel like he was a consolation prize.

Like Peter’s dad accepting his son, the way most characters act was a serial killer right off the bat and then being okay with the girl who killed him made the reaction very unrealistic.

Why was miscarriage even a part of the story when it wasn’t going to have any impact on it? This is a sensitive topic that shouldn’t have been used for shock value.

All in all, if you asked me to summarize this book in a line, I’d say that it was based on an original concept that wasn’t treated as well as it should have been.

2.5 sheep from me

Reviewer: Midu Reads

About the Author:
I’m Melissa Eskue Ousley, an award-winning author.
I live on the Oregon coast with my family, a neurotic dog, two charming cats, and a piranha. How does one end up with a piranha? Valid question. You’ll have to check out my short story page for the answer.

My novels are often inspired by our gorgeous forests and beaches. I love ghost stories and folklore, so there’s usually a paranormal twist in my stories.

When I’m not writing, I can be found on the beach, looking for sand dollars or building a driftwood fort with my twin boys. I love marine biology and have been known to nerd out over tide pools. I also volunteer for my local wildlife center, where I get to do all kinds of fun jobs like caring for pelicans and hand-feeding owls and hawks. 

I’ve had a number of other jobs, from spending a summer scraping roadkill off a molten desert highway to getting my Ph.D. and working in higher education, helping students obtain a college education. I also teach writing and publishing classes and have edited novels for various presses.

I love to talk with readers, so I hope you’ll connect with me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Please visit my books page for more information about my writing, and be sure to visit my news page to read about upcoming projects and events.

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