I tackled this audiobook during my sister's high school graduation ceremony. When 863 kids are graduating, you know you're in for a long night. Always be prepared - audiobooks are great for the stealth factor. When I began listening, the mythology initially confused me and I thought that my preparedness was going to kick me in the butt. But then I was immediately sucked in and I fell in love with this fantasy novel.
Hester's family is cursed, each mother dying immediately after giving birth to their first child. As a result, she has sworn not to fall victim to this curse, shunning love and the pain it ultimately causes. Where I thought that this would turn into a boy trying to convince her otherwise (which still kind of technically happens), instead of becoming a cliché fluttery mess, Hester decides to take action and research (at the library!! YAY!!!***) what could have cursed her family all those generations ago. Alongside her research, Monstrous Beauty brings the reader back and forth between the 19th century and present day to learn what ties Hester to legends of the sea.
The novel is a great mix of fantasy, romance, and suspense. Also, while the reader knows more than Hester at various points of the novel, there are still surprises at the novel's climax, which is fantastic. On Shelfari (my digital bookshelf of choice), I saw this novel tagged as a retelling. I'm unfamiliar with mermaid mythology, so I can't speak to that, but if it is, then this novel definitely peaked my interest in wanting to learn more about the mythology of sea creatures.
***Sidenote: then she steals from the library, which I can't condone. DON'T DO THAT!