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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful CreaturesBeautiful Creatures
Written by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Release Date: December 2009
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Not a Publisher Requested Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Summary (Courtesy of Barnes and Noble):
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
A pretty good read that is kind of slow to start, but mostly entertaining, with a really gripping ending. Wonderful imagery, a fantastic depiction of the true face of "southern hospitality" and an interesting twist on what some might call stale mythology, Beautiful Creatures is a smart and interesting story that will make you want to come back for more. Full review after the jump. WARNING: SPOILERS!

At first, I had a tough time getting into this book. It took a little too long for Lena to spark my interest through Ethan's eyes, even though he was interested from the moment he saw her. She just seemed rude and a little strange, but aside from the dream connection, I saw no reason to really care about her at all until things started to heat up. It was a nice change to see a story like this through the boy's eyes, whereas most books in this genre are told from the girl's point of view. It's easier for me to like Ethan than it is to like some main characters, mostly because I get so sick of hearing girls' insecurities from their inner monologue. There wasn't the kind of self-doubt you see in a female narrator with Ethan. He's a guy, so he's not particularly concerned with whether or not he's attractive enough to be seen with his significant other. (Thank goodness!) I felt like Ethan made a great conduit for this story.

As much as I liked Ethan as a main character, the supporting cast is what drove me in this book. Ethan's best friend Link reminded me of so many southern boys I knew in high school. (Fun Fact: Incidentally, I went to high school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, just north of where Gatlin would be in South Carolina.) Amma is exactly every older superstitious southern woman, right down to calling Ethan by his full name all the time. Macon Ravenwood was a hoot and a half to me. I loved every scene he was in. And bad girl Ridley was dark and fun and emotionally confusing, which makes me hope she is a huge part of Beautiful Darkness. I think she makes a better villain than the ultimate baddie in this book, Sarafine. Sarafine is too cut and dry: she's all bad without a speck of heart. A villain with a touch of a soul makes the emotional pull that much better, and the emotion is what I'm in it for when I read a book.

The way the authors painted a picture of the fictional town of Gatlin, South Carolina reminded me of every southern town I spent my childhood in. I was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, which is about as deep south as you can get. Many a young man hung a Confederate flag over their front door or truck rear windshield. I remember one of my teachers in elementary school referring to the Civil War as "The War of Northern Aggression" at some point. I think they even do Civil War reenactments there. We went on a field trip every year to Beauvoir, the last home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, which is (no lie) restored and maintained by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. (DAR, anyone?) So there was no exaggeration on the part of the authors when they described the sort of southern denial certain towns still hold onto. And the depiction of the "smile in your face while ripping you to shreds" brand of southern hospitality some of the characters demonstrated to Lena was spot on. Just ask my grandma.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I wasn't wowed as much as I wanted to be, but it was enough to get me to keep Beautiful Darkness on my TBR list. I recommend the read for anyone from the South, because you'll understand the humor of the entire setting much better, since you live in it.

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