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Beautiful Creatures | What YA Reading?

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There were no surprises in Gatlin County.
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.

At least, that’s what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.

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.


The first time I read Beautiful Creatures was in the 8th grade. Needless to say, I quickly fell in love with it. What tween wouldn’t? The passionate characters, the action-packed plot, the clichéd Southern town– all elements destined to charm someone recently introduced to YA. Rereading the novel, however, I’m not so sure. Of course it held its original allure, but what lies a mere scratch below the surface?

The world building was exactly how I remembered it: an almost Gothic setting in all of its small town glory. Nothing ever changes in Gatlin; the girls continue to dye their hair the same shade of blond, the Daughters of the American Revolution (a group of all too type-A women) continue to wear the pants, and the small town people remain just as small-minded. Now, as a rule, I love Southern settings. There’s something about them– the accents, the secrets, the  lull, the food– that just tickles me pink. Nonetheless, I am in agreement with many reviewers out there when I say that there’s something about Ethan that sours the whole thing. Perhaps it’s the fact that the only acceptable characters are, in fact, either not from Gatlin or dying to get out of it. Maybe it’s the part where Ethan mentions that the only reason he doesn’t have an accent is that his parents are ‘educated’ professors (and, honestly, who could have anything against a Southern accent?). Ethan’s utter dismissal of Gatlin is not an overgeneralization, but  a complete stereotype– and, probably, a prejudice on the part of the authors.

Hence, you will not be shocked in any way when I tell you that Lena, the raven-maned, unconventionally literate and downright unique love interest, is not from Gatlin. She’s not really from anywhere; she’s moved all over the globe, from relative to relative, since her parents died mysteriously in a car crash.  The only constant in her life is her series of spiral-bounded notebooks, in which she pours her heart out through poetry and prose. Oh, and her superpowers. Lena is a Caster: a paranormal creature possessing personalized supernatural abilities, otherwise known as a slight variation of a witch. (And although the variation is slight, it is appreciated.)

Something else that would have been appreciated, given alternate circumstances, is the twist on the paranormal/mortal couple. Three cheers for female supernaturals and male protagonists! That aspect of Beautiful Creatures was completely refreshing– until the usual beef became involved. The usual beef goes something like this:

 

Okay, now picture the roles reversed with the guy as a vampire and the girl as a human. Now picture every single paranormal romance you’ve ever read. Ring any bells?

I’ll give you another small glimpse into Beautiful Creatures‘ plot: Lena is, to say the least, not looking forward to her birthday.  In her family, a sweet 16 is not exactly an occasion for celebration. But when the plot finally unrolls and Lena’s birthday is upon us, do we discover the terrible truth of her fate? No, I must tell you, we do not. We are instead graciously invited to read the sequel. And that’s all and well. Until you realize, as a reader, that the authors never actually finished their line of thought. Thank goodness the sequel has already been published, or I would have been tempted not to read it at all in an effort to make my point.

This is not to say that this novel had no high points. As I’ve attempted to explain, every element of Beautiful Creatures had its highlights– but it also had its failures. Other high points include the constant allusions to and quotes from classics, which were nice to see in this context. Amma, of course, was S-U-P-E-R-B: 7 across and as deadly as any motherly figure could be.

It’s evident that Ms. Garcia and Ms. Stohl are trying to write a gem of a paranormal romance that impacts its readers. What is not evident is whether or not they have succeeded. I’m giving it 3.2/5 stars; 3 stars for its almost-succeeded attempts to be unique and 0.2 stars for its original effect on the younger, more easily-impressed version of me. Nevertheless, I do look forward to seeing the movie– Hollywood has a way of making clichés look unbearably attractive. You can see Beautiful Creatures‘ trailer here.

I’ll keep you posted,

 

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