*SPOILERS* If you want to read the book, then please don’t read on.
Shusterman mixes two different stories in this book: Goldilocks and Medusa. I saw the cover of the book, read the flaps, and thought, Dread locks is right! She looks just like Medusa! However, as I began to read, it sounded a lot more like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The girl sat in someone else’s chair, ate someone else’s food, and slept in someone else’s bed, and had yellow curls. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that there had to be some connection with Medusa.
Turns out I was right: Tara is the infamous gorgon, who insists that Perseus did not cut off her head. She goes around, turning people to stone to feed her ‘cravings’ (as the book terms them) and make herself stronger. Medusa is more human than she is willing to admit, though: she’s lonely. Her two sisters turned themselves to stone in a fight and are stuck in the Louvre. But Medusa is free, and for some reason, has fixated on Parker Baer as her eternal comrade, and turns him into a gorgon. I say eternal, by the way, because gorgons are apparently immortal–unless you cut off their heads, in which case they die.
Parker doesn’t discover any of this until it’s too late for him, although he feels an unease all throughout his first weeks of knowing Tara. When he does find out, he’s torn, because he likes and hates his new self at the same time. He makes (what I think anyway) is the right decision in the end, to turn Tara to stone. I think Parker is attracted to her because she has some of the truth. “If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that wealth hardens people” (pg. 137). Parker’s narrative continues, “She was right…when you can have everything, you find there’s nothing you really want. When you can do anything, you find there’s nothing you really care to do. You become lazy.” (pg. 137). Essentially, when you have a lot of material things, you become mediocre. None of them really satisfy you. Again Tara says, “All your life you’ve lived a lukewarm existence, never too warm, never too cold. That’s not living.” (pg. 158). And Tara is right: spending all our time on material things and being mediocre is not what we’re meant to do and be.
But she’s not right that “Human beings are predators…and eventually every predator becomes prey.” (pg. 157). Humans are bigger than that: we can become predators if we so choose, but we don’t have to do so. We can choose to help those weaker than we are, or in worse situations. We can choose to help people lift themselves out of a materialistic or depressed funk to find the joy and beauty in life. Not everyone is like the people Tara turns to stone, like Parker’s brother Garrett, who says “But soon I won’t care…I won’t care at all…it’ll be like everything else” (pg.118).