What if Meg had to become a Greek God?
Following on immediately from the end of the much loved Hercules film, Jen Calonita is back with a twisted tale starring our favourite D.I.D: Damsel in Distress.
Now, I LOVE sarcasm and sass so Meg has always been a firm favourite of mine. I was thrilled when I heard she would finally be getting her own story and did Calonita disappoint? No she did not!
Go The Distance is told entirely from Meg’s point of view: immersing the reader immediately in her thoughts and feelings whilst ascending to Mount Olympus with Hercules. I loved how in tune Jen Calonita was with her protagonist, right from the first few pages: there is literally SO much pomp and circumstance surrounding Meg, she is stood on a cloud for goodness sake! But does that stop her doubting herself? Doubting the budding relationship with Herc? Not a chance!
It will come as no surprise to regular readers of twisted tale novels that Calonita quickly tanks our hopes of a happy ending (makes sense- we’re only in the first few pages) as Zeus refuses Hercules’ request to be with Meg on Earth: the lightning-wielding god and his wife have waited too long for their son to re-join them, to lose him this easily. However, Hera can see how happy this mortal makes her son and so makes Meg a once-in-a-lifetime offer, complete a hero’s quest in 10 days and stay with Herc on Mount Olympus as a god for eternity.
Obviously Meg accepts- it would be a short story if she passed this opportunity up- and embarks upon an adventure like no other. As well as having to navigate the underworld, negotiate with Hades and face her ex, Meg battles monsters, befriends Gods and learns her most important lesson: that love is a strength, not a weakness.
Joining Meg on her journey are characters we know and love, such as Phil, Pegasus and Hades. It would be so easy for Jen Calonita to play it safe with these iconic characters but I am pleased to say that these guys get their own little developments too: particularly Hades as we see the character of Persephone and her impact upon his life.
Calonita also introduces us to a host of new characters, two of which are pivotal to both the reader understanding how key events in her life have created this tough armour that Meg wears so well. These are Thea, Meg’s mother and Aegeus, the man who Meg gave up her soul for. Aegeus is a bit wet in my opinion (he’s no Wonder Boy!) but the relationship Calonita creates between Meg and Thea is something precious: the reader can see the struggles faced by both women and can immediately identify where Meg got her fiery nature from.
But of course our heroine is the one who shines in this twisted tale: Meg was already a brilliant character but Calonita opens her up a little bit more and manages to break down some of her walls: along her quest Meg almost embraces her vulnerability, she learns to trust and learns that it is not a weakness to ask for and accept help. After that her quest seems to become easier- which is saying a lot in the underworld!
I also really admired that Meg doesn’t go weak at the knees at the prospect of spending eternity with Hercules, in fact she isn’t sure she wants eternity, she just wants the chance to find out! This made the underlying love story real rather than fairytale. Herc and Meg argue, they say things they regret but ultimately, they show up for each other and that’s what is important in the end.
I have seen other reviewers slating the character of Meg, saying that she is too rash and hot-headed in this twisted tale and bears little resemblance to the animated character we love. I have to say I completely disagree with these views: yes, as her quest nears its deadline then Meg becomes increasingly rash but hello, the girl gave up her soul to Hades! You can’t tell me she doesn’t have previous form for diving head-first into a situation?!
Go The Distance is an adorable novel about embracing your vulnerability and trusting those who want to help you. It teaches us that independence does not necessarily mean facing everything alone, love does not necessarily come from one stand-out moment and that it is never too late to forgive. This twisted tale is not as dark as other retellings in the series but Jen Calonita is an expert in middle-grade literature and so this is not a surprise nor a criticism.
“Two thumbs, way way up for our leading lady!”