Summer at East End: Double Eclipse by Melissa de la Cruz
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016
Available: Hardcover, Kindle edition
Double Eclipse is the second book in Summer at East End, a YA spinoff series of Melissa de la Cruz’s adult urban fantasy series Witches of East End, which was about three sisters who discover they are Norse goddesses with witchy powers. Summer at East End takes place ten years later and focuses on their teenage nieces, twin daughters of Thor, Mardi and Molly, who are human/goddess hybrids. As background, Norse gods and goddesses live as humans, and when they die they are reincarnated in another human body without memories or powers; these manifest in their teen and young adult years in a process called Reawakening. Mardi and Molly are brand new goddesses in their first lifetime, so they’ve never had to go through this and won’t acquire “grown-up” memories like the other gods do, because they don’t have them. The premise of this book is that the girls learn their mother is the famous tennis player Janet Steele, who moves to East End after purchasing their family home and throwing their relatives out of the house, on the pretense of developing a relationship with her daughters.
I wasn’t sent Triple Moon, the first book in the series, but Double Eclipse does a fairly good job of standing on its own (although I have read the original Witches of East End books, and without that background I might be lost, so for teens unfamiliar with the previously written adult series or the television show, it might be more important). Unfortunately, even given the background from the previous series (which I enjoyed) I found this book to be disappointing.
I think a large part of the problem is that it’s difficult to relate to the characters. The sweet twin/bad twin trope can work and even be kind of fun, which is what makes the Sweet Valley High books work. It can even work when the girls in question are ridiculously wealthy (like the sisters in Hotlanta) but on some level, the characters have got to be relatable, and have at least a semblance of a believable relationship with each other. Twin Molly is the sweet one interested in fashion, makeup, and boys. She’s also easily bought by Janet, instantly loving her and moving in without a second thought, especially after she’s offered expensive shopping trips and the use of a Maserati. Mardi is the cynical one, suspicious of Janet’s sudden interest, particularly since she’s evicted Mardi’s boyfriend (yes, there’s an ick factor there, in dating one of your relatives who just happens to be reincarnated into a seventeen year old boy’s body). Caught in the middle is cute boy Rocky McLaughlin, who is carried away by Molly’s sweetness (and her Maserati) and baffled when she stops texting him. Due to misunderstandings over said cute boy and a spell cast over everyone’s cell phones, disaster ensues.
Molly, as the “good twin” is supposed to by a sympathetic character, but she was totally insufferable and so superficial and self-centered she almost forgot that her boyfriend was grieving his mother. Mardi was slightly more likable, but her rebelliousness basically consisted of “I don’t wear makeup” and grudgingly working in a sandwich shop while hitting on her sister’s boyfriend, after she spent most of the book moping over her boyfriend breaking up with her when he realized the essential “ick” factor of his dating a teenager. Also, much of the plot hinged on a lack of communication between the two girls. While they weren’t in constant contact through texting, nobody ever suggested they meet face-to-face, although they actually lived on the same small island, interacting with the same people. It also seemed unrealistic that their only same-age peer was the boy they were fighting over. As a side note, these two girls were constantly being offered alcoholic drinks by their relatives, and sucking them down as if this were no big deal. Even in fiction, yes, it totally is. They aren’t in school anyway, so why not just make them 21?
Honestly, having read both her adult fiction and her children’s books, I expect better from de la Cruz. She had a great opportunity here to take advantage of a growing young adult interest in books with mythological settings, thanks to Rick Riordan’s expansion into the world of Norse mythology, the Loki’s Wolves series by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr, and Kate O’Hearn’s Valkyrie, and I feel that she really squandered it by turning it into a series about two material girls who also happen to be goddesses, rather than digging deeper into the mythology and providing a little more action, character growth, and connection to the mythology, or even just exploring more of their family connections. I hope there’s more to the next book than there is to this one. However, with Melissa de la Cruz being as popular as she is, and with the interest in Witches of East End, it probably will be in demand.
Contains: mild sexual situations, violence
Reviewed by Kirsten Kowalewski