Book Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

From the book jacket: 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.  

Plot: The book cover actually outlines the plot pretty well, without giving away any of the many twists and bits of action.

Overall Thoughts: I bought this book expecting to like it - I mean, I'm pretty much down with anything about teenage witches or southern gothic and it has both - but I ended up loving it. I devoured it so much more quickly than I expected. The book might start out feeling like yet another paranormal romance with the same old plot, but Garcia and Stohl manage to pack enough of mystery, humor, social commentary, and action in that it is quite an original story. I really appreciated the fact that, in addition to the paranormal aspects of the story, they did focus so much on the idea of small town prejudice. The townspeople hate Lena, not because she's a witch (they don't know), but because she's an outsider. There's a great part where Ethan realizes that, no matter what he does, the town will forgive him because he is one of them and that's all that matters, but they won't ever extend that to Lena.

Characters: I've read a handful of reviews that mentioned they had trouble connecting with the characters, but I didn't really feel that. Granted, the authors could have spent a little more time building up the characters and taken out some of the angsty she loves me/she loves me not, but I didn't find them unappealing. Ethan is super adorable and Lena is pretty awesome. Together, the two of them are really sweet. The supporting characters are really the best, though. There are too many to mention here, but they're all so quirky and interesting that I want them each to have their own book.

Setting: Garcia and Stohl really excel at the world building. The town of Gatlin is the consummate small southern town, full of secrets and prejudices and colorful characters. It's the perfect backdrop for the story of a boy and girl coming to terms with who they are, albeit in different ways. There's the added bonus of flashback to the Civil War that heighten the history and gothic feeling to this town. They also slowly feed you bits of the Castor world that really had me wanting more. You discover it a little at a time, but they leave you with the feeling that there is so much more to it.

Writing Style: Having Ethan as the narrator threw me off at first. For some reason, I was expecting the story to be more from Lena's point of view. However, a few chapters in and I was glad for it. It helped to hear the story from an outside perspective, so the mystery was revealed slowly. However, there were a few times when it was hard to believe that he was a 16-year-old boy. I hesitate to say that, because I don't want to buy into the stereotype of what a teenage boy should sound like, but it's easy to remember that this book was written by two adult women. It wasn't so bad that it was distracting, though. The one thing I did find somewhat distracting was the accents. They were realistic, but they got a bit tedious at points.

Extras: The library! I don't want to spoil too much, but a library plays a pretty big part in the story. I would love to have the job of Marian the librarian (shout out to The Music Man).

Favorite Line: Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures.

Read This If You Like:

Secret Circle Series by L.J. Smith

The Immortals Series by Alyson Noel

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray    

 
 
Kim blogs about books at Quintessentially Bookish and life at Ravens and Writing-Desks.

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