I get that YA as a genre embraces a standard that includes shallow characters, minimal development and basic plots. The genre is all about simple, straightforward storytelling that does not require a lot of big words, complicated concepts or background knowledge. For the genre, this book is closer to average, but I have read some great YA books, and refuse to excuse a book’s failings simply by labelling it YA. That is, after all, one way to give the whole genre a poorer reputation, and I like the YA genre in principle.
If you love action, and find that characterization and scenery detract from the point of the story, you will love Hera, Queen of Gods. Right from the beginning of this book there is really not much description of anything or anyone unless it is absolutely necessary to keep the action going. Inconveniences like serious injury and death are worked around easily, and the book sticks so close to the primary characters that they might as well not be surrounded by a whole town of ordinary mortals who might notice what is going on and get involved. The few mortals who do get involved die, or turn into demi-gods.
And, since characterization is so sparse, the primary characters can do just about anything that is convenient to the action, with no regard for consistency. The maturity of the god-characters was also odd. The gods didn’t come across as immortal, because they seemed too naive and inexperienced, more like 12yr-olds than adult immortals. The way their borrowed teenagers took off on their adventure, one could also forget they were supposed to be teenagers, because no parents or other adult authority figures ever really turned up to prevent these high-school ‘teens’ from acting completely autonomous. It might have been easier and more plausible to just let the gods borrow college students.
Just as characterization is kept absolutely minimal, the scenery for the entirety of this book is left blank unless it directly impacts the action, so much so that it is not very clear where the action is taking place, except in very vague terms. A fight in a room in their highschool apparently takes place in a room with lots of students around a few tables, because one of the boys involved gets backed up against a table, but no teachers or other supervisory adults seem to be present. Is this a study hall? a cafeteria? homeroom? I felt as if the whole story took place in a vast blankness in which objects, including furniture, trees and buildings, just appeared out of nowhere when the story required them.
I also had issues with details associated with the gods’ body-borrowing. How did the gods know their own class schedules? They seemed not to know other things, for instance Hera did not know that the girl she was borrowing was on student council. I would have been fine with them not knowing any of their borrowed bodies’ information, or with them knowing a lot more than they did, but as written these characters’ knowledge of their mortal bodies was too inconsistent. And, what is a goth high school girl doing living by herself in their own apartment? Does she have a job and support herself? Do Justin’s parents know he is off having deadly adventures? How do the rest of the gods’ borrowed families manage to stay out of the picture?
In short, if action uninhibited by context is your thing, or if you just want a fast (but long and impressive-looking) easy read, you might like this book. Read it while waiting for your laundry at the laundromat, or while babysitting, and the book’s issues won’t matter so much, because the action is really all there is and no distractions could make you miss crucial information, really.