Reading Is Good For You

Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

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.*

*Summary courtesy of jacket flap.

Let me preface this review by stating that I am not a big fan of paranormal . . . anything. No vampires (sparkly or otherwise), no werewolves, no witches, no things that go bump in the night. Needless to say, I was surprised that I actually quite liked this book.

The basic storyline is the stereotypical plot that you saw all the time in teen movies for my generation: the unusual girl moves to a small town that doesn’t like outsiders. The popular boy is attracted to the girl, but his crowd (the basketball players and blonde cheerleaders, of course) doesn’t approve their relationship and threaten to disown him should he pursue this girl. The boy, of course, says see ya to his pals, because he’s better than all of them, and he’s leaving this good-for-nothing town in two years anyway, and he and this girl are in loooove, so there.

The authors do put a paranormal spin on what would be considered a tired plot in an attempt to make their story stick out from the rest, but with the prominence of paranormal romance in the literary world today, I don’t really think that addition makes Beautiful Creatures all that unique. I also had some small issues with the main characters. I liked Ethan and thought he was a stand-up guy, but if I were in his place and had been having wacky nightmares featuring a girl for months on end and then said dream girl moved to my town, I don’t think the first thing I would tell her would be “Hey, you’re that girl in my dreams!”  Add this to the fact that he can hear her voice in his head, and I’m pretty sure he should be doing a bit more freaking out and a bit less running directly into her arms. Getting chummy with Lena first thing didn’t seem to be the logical response to these strange occurances.

Same thing goes for Lena. Most of the time I really liked her, but she got a tad melodramatic at times and put way too much emphasis on wanting to fit in with her peers and just be a ‘normal’ girl for once. Of course, if I had the potential of turning into an evil, homicidal maniac upon turning sixteen, I might act the same way. Still, the desire to be accepted for once ought not to make one do stupid things, like, I don’t know, wholeheartedly agreeing to be the guest of honor at a birthday party hosted by your wicked, up-to-know-good cousin and attended by all your classmates who previously made your life a living nightmare, but are now mysteriously acting like you are the best thing that has happened since sliced bread? Shouldn’t that kind of thing make warning bells go off in your head? Come on, doing something that dumb is like the literary equivalent of choosing to run up the stairs to hide when the the axe wielding psycho breaks into your house in those gory horror films — both scenarios can only end badly (and more than likely with someone getting brutally murdered).

You might be saying by this point in the review “I thought you said you actually liked this book. What on earth made it enjoyable?” Well, dear readers, it was the setting itself and the minor characters living there that captured my attention and made this story come alive. Gatlin embodies that stereotypical vision of The South (though you know there is more than a little bit of truth in those stereotypes), where every woman strives to become a member of the DAR and occupies their time fussing over their geneology records, baking, and trying to ban objectionable books from the school library, and every man participates in the local Civil War re-enactment (oh, my mistake, that would be The War Between the States). I loved the description of the only two places in town where girls could buy formal wear, which left them either looking like a skanky pageant girl or a wedding cake topper.

Ethan’s ancient great aunts, Prudence, Mercy and Grace, aka The Sisters, take the cake, though. These ladies have all outlived their numerous husbands, so they’ve chosen to live together. When we meet them for the first time, there is an E-mergency with their dog, Harlon James, whom they think is dying, but it’s really only a broken leg (one of the Sisters tried to sweep him out of the house, thinking him a wharf rat). They also have a cat named Lucille Ball, which they excercise every morning by attaching its leash to a clothesline out in the front yard. If you aren’t cracking up when reading about the Sisters’ antics, then you surely don’t have much of a sense of humor.

The authors conveniently left some questions unanswered, setting them up nicely for a sequel, so sometime in the future I shall be revisiting Gatlin. If you are a paranormal romance fan, I highly suggest you get your road trip on and take a visit to Gatlin yourself. Say hello to The Sisters for me while you are there.  

Challenges:
Read for the 2010 100+ Reading Challenge

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This entry was posted on March 2, 2010 by in Young Adult Fiction and tagged , , , .
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