Beautiful Creatures, book reviews, Gatlin, Kami Garcia, Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, Margaret Stohl, pararnormal romance, Southern fiction, YA fantasy, YA fiction, young adult fantasy, young adult fiction
There were only two kinds of people in our town. “The stupid and the stuck,” my father had affectionately classified our neighbors. “The ones who are bound to stay or too dumb to go. Everyone else finds a way out.” There was no question which one he was, but I’d never had the courage to ask why.
“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.”
Beautiful Creatures is a very interesting book. It’s at once very junky, typical YA-paranormal fare, and also very engrossing, suspenseful, and fascinating. I picked it up once a few years ago, but for whatever reason, put it down again. I shouldn’t have. Despite the fact that perhaps the descriptions aren’t very good and that Gatlin is the cliche of the Southern town, it’s difficult to put this rather long book down. I had also seen part of the recently released movie while on a flight. And I have to say, it was pretty absorbing. Even though I kind of already knew what would happened, I wanted to read on. I figured out that I got to page 180 the first time, because I did definitely remember Ridley, Lena’s older cousin who went dark, and is a Siren.
The criticism that everyone seems to have of the book: I don’t know what a teenage boy’s inner monologue sounds like, but I’m pretty sure it’s not like Ethan’s narration. At all. Based on the guys my age I’ve talked to, that is not what they sound like and what is going on their brain. However, I found that I simply didn’t care as I was reading the book. It was too gripping. I’m kind of worried Twilight (when I finally get around to it) is going to be like that too.
The book is pretty long for a YA book, 563 pages, and I think it was a little dense in the middle and heavily plotted. Still, there was a lot of great background information, and that I really liked. I didn’t quite understand why so many people absolutely hated it; yes, there were cliches, yes, Ethan’s narration was unrealistic, but the story was entertaining and suspenseful. And yes, I seriously doubt that a town as bigoted, racist, and nasty as Gatlin exists in the 21st century, but it’s possible. There are still some pretty crazy people out there. Speaking of that, I think Beautiful Creatures would have been more aptly set in, I don’t know, the 60′s or 70′s or maybe the ’80′s. The 21st century setting really didn’t seem to serve any purpose, other than the fact that Ethan has an iPod, on which the mysterious song Sixteen Moons appears. Making it set in the present makes the story and Lena’s world seem even more alien. How could it possibly exist in the modern, clean, rational world of the 2000′s? That’s why making it set in the South was probably a good move. That said, there are plenty of smart people in the South, which Ethan doesn’t seem to get. Maybe because the people in Gatlin are such idiots. But the South has given birth to so many excellent writers: Flannery O’Conner, Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell, Eudora Welty, to name a few. All women, interestingly enough. Just like in any part of the country, there are smart people, and there are idiots, bigots, and racist people. Just perhaps more of the latter. But really, there are lots of intelligent people living in the South.
Anyway, this is definitely a guilty pleasure for me, because if I look at the book, I can’t possibly find anything remotely literary about it. Lena is a cliche too, but I liked her characterization and the descriptions of her. As long as you know they’re cliches, that doesn’t mean they’re not entertaining to read about. I love classic Southern fiction, and this is a newer work of paranormal/historical Southern fiction, although it doesn’t portray most Southerners in a flattering light. Still, the South is a really compelling region, awash with contradictions and very old history which makes it a great subject for fiction of all sorts.
So would I recommend Beautiful Creatures? Yes, if you like this kind of paranormal fantasy romance. It’s not a book I’m proud of reading though (Shhh…). Anyway, I’m not sure why I didn’t finish it the first time, though as I said, there is a dry patch in the middle.
Rating: *** (only 3 stars because it’s rather junky).