The Dig by Audrey Hart
Release Date: November 7, 2011
Publisher: Backlit Fiction
Zoe Calder has always been an outsider. Stashed away in boarding schools since her parents died, Zoe buries herself in the study of ancient worlds. Her greatest thrill is spending her summers with her archeologist aunt and uncle on digs around the world. And one day, while investigating a newly unearthed temple in Crete, Zoe discovers a luminous artifact that transports her to ancient Greece.
As Zoe quickly learns, the Olympian Gods are real, living people—humans with mysterious powers… Powers that Zoe quickly realizes she has come to possess, as well. However, when the people of ancient Greece mistake Zoe for an Olympian, the Gods must restore the balance of the ancient world… No matter what. Zoe is forced to play a confusing and dangerous game as Hera rallies the gods against her—all except for Zeus, the beautiful, winged young god who risks everything to save her. Out of time and out of her element, teenager Zoe Calder finds herself in ancient Greece, battling against the power of the Olympians and the vengeance of a scorned goddess—all for the strange and mysterious boy she has come to love.
I received this novel for review from Audrey Hart. Not only is she about the sweetest person, but she actually reads my blog regularly! This caused me a great deal of jumping around and screaming and bragging because she is the first author to tell me that. I just thought that was awesome, because I still can't believe how far this blog has come since I first started it.
The book itself was brilliant. The synopsis sounded exactly like the type of book that I've been wanting to read for a long time. I always have loved Greek mythology, and while the kids in my class had droopy eyes and yawns throughout Mythology class, I would be the one diligently copying down notes and contributing to discussion. I was a Greek Mythology dork.
The second part that appealed to me about this book was that Zoe was a boarding school girl. I've always wanted to go to boarding school (although I knew I couldn't survive without my parents for months on end; I'd miss them too much!) but it seems like the place where everything happens. It was a bit of the opposite in this because everything happened when Zoe left boarding school.
Zoe is planning to go to Crete, in Greece, for an archaeology dig with her aunt and uncle. Before she leaves school, she starts dreading it and then chastising herself for being freaked out. She's been wanting to go for the entire year and, as her friend points out, she's been talking about it all year as well. Why would she be feeling like she shouldn't be going, and like it's not safe for her?
As she climbs on the plane to Crete, the feeling only builds. For the hours that it takes her to get there, the nervousness and adrenaline only mounts higher, until she's almost certain that something is going to go wrong. She tries to tell herself that nothing is going on. After all, she's been on many digs similar to this, so what would she have to get nervous about?
When she gets to Greece, changes start occurring. Her dig is much bigger than she expected. However, when she ignores caution and goes exploring on the site, soon she realizes that everything is spiraling out of control. Soon she finds herself in the Greece of ancient times, and discovers that legend is frightfully real.
What she discovers there changes her perception of reality forever. Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite...they're all real. The gods and goddesses "of myth" live among people, only powers and worship separating them. They are worshiped and praised for their powers, but Zoe soon starts developing them. She knows that she isn't a goddess though. However, when commoners mistake her for one of them, she soon finds herself in hot water with the Olympians.
Zoe is in a mess, and all she wants to do is to go home. She has to find the oracle to do so, to send her back to present time and find her aunt and uncle again. It'll take adventure and danger and...love?...to find her way out of Ancient Greece. Her witty monologues, fast-paced action, and fresh Greek mythology take this book to the next level.
Zoe was fresh. No other word describes her as well to me because she just is a rarity among many of the heroines in YA. She is not the standard "shy" heroine, because she is much more than that. She's not faking it. She's honestly one of those rare girls who would rather spend time with herself than with others. She was not outright antisocial, but she seemed more comfortable with only herself and her thoughts. Most girls need to have somebody around them, but she was fine with herself.
She hated modern devices and social media. She didn't understand why people loved it and would rather be elbow-deep in dirt, scavenging for an ancient artifact, than updating her status every five seconds so that everybody knew exactly what she was doing. She obviously had a fascination with histories and mythology, which played well into the book, and didn't seem "too convenient". It worked for her, very well actually.
Zoe was a likable heroine. Although she was comfortable alone, she was relatable as well, so that the average girl picking up this book would be able to see aspects of her personality that were similar to hers. It was nice to be able to relate to her while still being able to live vicariously through her outrageous and interesting experiences. I never would have thought to be interested in archaeology but after Zoe's praise of it, I might have to look more into it.
Her experiences throughout the book change her, and she is a different girl at the end of the book than she is at the beginning. She learns so much and Audrey manages to weave life lessons in there without it sounding hokey. The lessons sounded real and wholesome, the type of books that you want your kids to read, while still providing a satisfying story that stands out from the crowd.
The first thing that I noticed when I started reading this book was one of the things that majorly set this book apart: the chapter titles. Reminiscent of my reaction when seeing the titles for the first Percy Jackson book, I started laughing hysterically. Talking of a giant iPhone ruining a girl's life, of random incidents and funny twists on encounters, the titles alone will have you rolling on the floor. I took this as a great sign and continued on into my book.
After being introduced to Zoe originally, we start to feel the gripping effects of Ancient Greece. The description of this was phenomenal. It's like a siren call. You can feel the ominous effect that it has on Zoe, but it also seems almost captivating, as if we were meant to go there. I have to applaud Audrey on this, because most books only describe the effect that it has on the character, but Audrey describes the effect itself, and the reader can feel it.
I enjoyed Zoe's sometimes-snarky-yet-honest takes on the world. Every once in a while, she'd slip into a bit of a rant about something going on, and it both entertained me and let me know more about her character. Not once does she come across as rude or self-centered and that's hard not to do with these kind of monologues.
The setting was breathtaking. The effect of Ancient Greece was nothing without the touching descriptions of the land itself. From the cultures of the people living in it, to the particular habits of a certain god or goddess, Audrey was nothing if not thorough. It wasn't all descriptions though, either. It connected seamlessly with the rest of the book and only adds depth to the image conjured inside of our heads.
Some people say that this book sounds too much like Percy Jackson. There were certain parallels...the chapter titles, the mythology, etc,. but it really wasn't. It was wholly unique and that is hard to do in such a diverse and flooded YA market, bursting with everything from werewolves to Goths to voodoo. You can't really establish a solid Greek connection without maintaining some of the elements associated with it.
Many myths describe certain gods or goddesses of having extreme personality traits, many of which were clearly illustrated and brought to life in their representations in this book. I was expecting there to be some life in the descriptions of them but Audrey nailed them so perfectly that it was like you had never read about them before now. Needless to say, that was very exciting for me.
One of the things that I have been itching to talk about in this book was the romance, but I decided to save it until now, so words are just pouring out of me. Zeus and Zoe (now doesn't that just have a nice ring to it?) were the romance in this book. Yes, I know what you're thinking, that Zeus.
As before, with the gods and goddesses being so alive, you can imagine that I had my worries about Zeus. Many myths portray him to be an impulsive, angry god who was very powerful. I was worried that the negative effects of the myths might carry over into Zeus. However, he was portrayed as more of your average hero, which I was grateful for. You could still feel a bit of the effects that Zeus's personality had on his appearance in the book, but it was more like shadows, not the actual thing. Also, this toned-down part of his personality weren't unbelievably altered. They weren't drastic, but enough to keep him likable, and for me to love hearing of a romance between him and Zoey.
This book seems to be yet another clean YA book. It seems to be excellent as well for bridging the gap between YA and MG, just like another book that I reviewed today, Between the Sea and Sky. It had enough love to keep it classified a "romance" but not the classic I-want-you-and-nothing-else that many approaches have. Parents and teens alike will love this.
Another large part of the book was the journey that Zoey took to find the oracle and get home. She had a bad feeling about going to Greece but she still had wanted to come, and it is only when she defies the rules and is sent back to Ancient Greece that she truly realizes how much home means to her. It was like an ache in her heart that she needed to fill because she needed to get back to her family and friends who she loved. Her yearning to get back sustained the suspense throughout this book.
The ending was perfect for this book. I was happy with it, and for many books, it seems to be a rarity. A lot of things in this book were a rarity for me, and I was pleasantly surprised while reading it.
I have the feeling that many blogs will be discussing this book soon simply because of the freshness of it. Audrey Hart is a new name in YA lit, but before long, she'll be one of the most talked about. The Dig was an excellent debut that will surely propel her into the community and into the hands of eager readers.
Recommended for anybody who loves: Percy Jackson; Goddess Girls; Cleopatra's Moon; The Red Pyramid; archaelogy; history; mythology; etc,.
Possible book club questions:
How was Zoe an "introvert"?Do you agree with Zoe on some of her rants? Which ones and why?How does the culture and myth of Ancient Greece change throughout this book? How much of the outcome of this book was influenced by it?