Mesopotamian mythology. Why the last time I read a book inspired by that, (before Pazuzu’s Girl, of course) was…well, never. So when I was offered the opportunity to read and review this book, I jumped at the chance. Mythology has always interested me. It’s simultaneously enchanting and horrifying, beautiful yet unapologetically cruel; the gods being immortal, incredibly powerful, interested in the adoration of man, yet apathetic to mankind’s individual fates. They’re typically petty, vindictive, selfish, fallible, power hungry, and yet sometimes they can be surprisingly benevolent. It’s the unpredictability of the gods, the romance, the tragedy, and mankind’s continual attempts to defy fate that keep me coming back to mythology time and time again.
Pazuzu’s Girl had all of this in spades, and while I have certain reservations about the book and the story as a whole, it was a pretty original story. The way Coles wove the mythology through this book was fascinating, the ancient meeting the modern. Her characters and descriptions are as dichotomous as the gods themselves – poetic and alluring, horrific and ghastly. At times her word choices and descriptions do stretch above the vocabulary range of the average teenager – and perhaps, me – but cracking a dictionary has never hurt anyone, I suppose.
One main point I appreciated in Pazuzu’s Girl is the sheer scale on which the story happens. Though the story largely focuses on a small group of people in the Denver area, Coles makes sure the reader knows the devastation and atrocities are also being committed on a global scale, making it extremely clear that the fate of the world is, in fact, at stake. It gives the book a necessary level of gravity, that a story such as this one most certainly needs. Coles does an excellent job of making the world go to hell in a hand basket, and because of her scientific background, it’s all very convincing and a little frightening. In fact, after reading this, I think I need to go buy a Hazmat suit, purchase stock in Purell, and steer clear of all jealously enraged Sumerian goddesses.
When I started Pazuzu’s Girl, I have to admit that I expected the novel to be Morpho’s story – the blue haired girl on the cover and one of the aforementioned “Pazuzu’s Girls.” Not so. Well, not really. Pazuzu’s once ambitious, god-like pursuits have diminished down into one all-encompassing goal: to keep his beloved daughter safe from his crazy, murderous shrew of an ex-wife… who also happens to be a demoness of pestilence and has a taste for killing pregnant mothers and their children. So, in that sense, the book is about Morpho – the never-ending attempts to keep her safe. It’s about her, but it’s not really her story. Morpho definitely felt more like a secondary character. Though she does get chances at narration, they are somewhat infrequent. She’s more the object of the book instead of it’s subject, and quickly became a one-dimensional, rebellious teenager that showed little to no maturation over the course of the novel.
The story is more accurately Pazuzu’s story, which I guess shouldn’t surprise me since he is the titular character. The book is mainly narrated by him, two other adult males, and Morpho’s boyfriend; it’s a rather male-dominated book overall. Though I found this to be rather interesting as Pazuzu’s Girl defies the normally accepted parameters of what makes a YA book a YA book, the adult narrators outnumbering the teenagers in addition to some rather mature scenes and references, caused me to place this book firmly in the ADULT category.
Despite this, I find Pazuzu to be fascinating. Mesopotamian gods, or fallen gods, definitely have a different moral code than a 21st century, western Judeo-Christian society, and this is one of the things I had to keep reminding myself of while I read. Pazuzu is a loving father (though he may not entirely be sure how to connect with his teenage daughter), loves his deceased wife with a consuming passion, his intentions with the Tablet of Destiny were originally noble, but he’s also responsible for countless deaths and plagues which he sometimes inflicts upon humanity on a whim. We get multiple flashbacks of Pazuzu’s history over the millennia, and it’s interesting to see how his priorities and principles evolve as he lives among humanity in his exile from Heaven.
Ninhab is a character I did not see coming, and I’m not going to reveal too much more about him than to say that he was probably my favorite character. He’s also Morpho’s high school principal. Yeah. You’ll just have to read the book to figure out how he fits in.
JD. Originally, I wasn’t so sure about him. A druggie high school waste-of-space? Being a mom myself, I have to admit that I was somewhat on Pazuzu’s side when JD is first introduced. However, JD shows himself to be sweet, so earnest, innovative, dependable, and, when it counts, he’s got your back. By the end of this novel, I really came to enjoy his character.
Overall, though I believe this book has been misclassified as YA, and though I wish Morpho had been a stronger character, I think Coles’ Pazuzu’s Girl is a compellingly original concept that has been approached in a very unique way.