2009. Little, Brown and Company. Paperback. 563 pages.
Recommended by: Capricious Reader, my co-worker Kim
This very popular book has been on my radar since the year it came out, thanks to the championing of several fellow book bloggers. My enjoyment of YA literature is hit-or-miss however, so it was the recommendation of my co-worker Kim that finally pushed me to pick this book up, just as the movie was coming out. Although Kim acknowledged it wasn’t perfect and had some ridiculous elements, as a Southerner herself, she found the Southern Gothic atmosphere set this book apart from other YA novels she’s read.
Beautiful Creatures is told from the first-person perspective of Ethan Wate, a teenager in a small Southern town who can’t wait to escape the oppressive social structures of his school and community. A mysterious new girl, Lena Duchannes, arrives to quickly capture his attention and affections. Lena turns out to have supernatural powers, and this secret is barely kept under wraps, turning the whole of the town against her, her family, and Ethan.
I struggled through Beautiful Creatures. It is terribly angsty, and needed to be pared way the heck down. Where just a couple of sentences would have sufficed to convey a feeling, there would be a paragraph or two. Things were spelled out that didn’t need to be, and the suspense was so belabored in execution, it just became annoying instead of hair-raising.
There were some fantastic sequences in this book, to be sure, but they were muffled by so much nonsense. I especially despaired over the high school drama, which included the tired cliche of a group of mean-girls who dictate the opinions and actions of the entire school body. Please.
The best parts often involved the adults: Lena’s uncle coming to her rescue during a school dispute; Ethan is visited by a friend’s mom and his house starts acting weird; a ghost appears in a cemetery. There’s also a switch in perspective near the end of the book that was unexpected and a welcome new wrinkle.
I will not be reading the sequels. I will probably watch the movie, not because I expect it to be great, but there’s a possibility it will be better than the book anyway. I think the story might work better visually than on the page. I hope they keep some of the best scenes and, being a movie, have edited out all the bloat from the book.
Excerpts from others’ reviews:
A Tapestry of Words – “It was like [the authors] couldn’t get enough of any one type of magic and so they decided to keep tossing things in there and hoping they would work. It turns into one gigantic hodgepodge of every fantasy cliche and then some!”
Capricious Reader – “Beautiful Creatures is a delicious, lush, and haunting Southern gothic tale of some of the most memorable Southern characters, I’ve ever met.”
Cornucopia of Reviews – “I’ve occasionally found that in books by multiple authors, you can pick up on the different writing styles of each author throughout the book. That wasn’t true for Beautiful Creatures.”