In this third entry in Shusterman's Dark Fusion series, Cara DeFido is so grotesque she cannot look into mirrors without breaking them. Because of her "ugularity," Cara is the biggest outcast at Flock's Nest High School and is dubbed the Flock's Nest Monster. Cara has no friends, roams cemeteries at night, and sleepwalks. Cara runs away after her father bribes a classmate to take her to the dance. She ends up in a community where everyone is stunningly beautiful. They welcome her and give her a magic elixir that makes her beautiful too. For the first time, Cara fits in. She goes back to Flock's Nest to say goodbye, but when she gets there, she realizes that she wants revenge. As in Dread Locks (Dutton, 2005/VOYA June 2005) and Red Rider's Hood (2005/VOYA October 2005), this novel fuses fairy tale with mythology and legend. It has threads of the ugly duckling story and the legend of the fountain of youth. This twisted fairy tale is quite dark and does not have a happy ending. Readers will learn the valuable lesson that beauty is only skin deep. After Cara becomes beautiful, the irony is that everyone still hates her. This fast-paced book is great for both avid and reluctant readers. Readers do not have to be familiar with the other titles in the series to follow Cara's story. Give it to fans of horror and mythology and fairy-tale retellings. It is a recommended purchase for public and school libraries serving middle and high school students. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P J S (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Dutton, 224p., Ages 12 to 18.
No two ways about it, sixteen-year-old Cara DeFido is mirror-breaking ugly. Literally. After her latest unbearable humiliation, Flock's Rest's Monster runs away in search of the Nowhere Land of her dreams. She finds the Shangri-la of De Leon, is accepted and beautified, but opts out of utopia for revenge. In the world of Neal Shusterman's "Dark Fusion" series of updated fairy tales, this is a distinct mistake. His gothic-modern retelling of "The Ugly Duckling" gives Shusterman ample opportunity to have great fun with references to Lost Horizon, the mythical Fountain of Youth, and above all, words. Smirk at the "Fido" reference, but note that Cara's expertise is spelling, in all its connotations. Like the rest of his series, Shusterman ends this story on a fatalistic, cautionary note. I am not sure what Hans Christian Andersen would have thought, but Shusterman's take is clever as always. 2006, Dutton, Ages 10 to 14.
Gr 6 Up-This third book in the series stars Cara De Fido, who is so ugly that her reflection breaks mirrors. She's a champion speller but even that accomplishment is spoiled after she's tricked into spelling words like "grotesque" and "abomination" at a spelling bee. She suffers from a type of sleepwalking she calls "sleep standing" because she doesn't move. In this state, Cara dreams of a handsome boy in a beautiful green valley. She befriends the town's other outcast, an old lady who lives in the cemetery, who tells her that she has a destiny that she must search for. After a guy she likes betrays her, she runs away to find her dream place. There, the inhabitants hold the secret to everlasting beauty. Cara longs to be one of the beautiful people, but she can't forget those she left behind. She goes back but not before being warned that she can only stay away for a short time or she will find that there are "worse things than being ugly." By returning, she makes a decision that she knows is wrong but that she can't help and, as a result, she creates "a world of suffering." While not as richly written as the fairy-tale retellings by Donna Jo Napoli or Robin McKinley, Shusterman has created his own dark, edgy, and suspenseful tale that cleverly borrows from such classics as the "The Ugly Ducking," "Sleeping Beauty," and "Beauty and the Beast."-Sharon Rawlins, NJ Library for the Blind and Handicapped, Trenton Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
For the third entry in his Dark Fusion series, Shusterman gives another familiar tale both a contemporary setting (with some magic thrown in) and an ingenious, eerie twist. Cara De Fido, unfortunate in more than just name, is so hideously plain that her face literally shatters mirrors and camera lenses-her cruel, jeering peers in the town of Flock's Rest dub her the "Flock's Rest Monster." Her simmering resentment comes to a boil after a mysterious note sends her out into the hills in a storm; she wakes up in a beautiful valley, amid beautiful people who are guarding the veritable Fountain of Youth. With one splash, Cara is transformed-and eager to go back to Flock's Rest on a table-turning expedition. Her beauty comes at a steeper cost than she imagines, however. Shusterman takes some shortcuts, but only in service to the story, and in casting Cara with believable mixes of toughness and vulnerability, of spite and good sense, he sets her up as a (sort of) sympathetic figure. Nicely disquieting. (Fantasy. 12-15)