Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Ethan Wate, a high school sophomore, plans to escape his small Southern town as soon as he can. Life has been difficult since his mother died; his father, a writer, has withdrawn into his study. Then Lena Duchannes arrives, and this strange new girl is the very one who has been occupying his dreams. She and her kin are Casters, beings who have supernatural powers. Getting to know her exposes Ethan to time travel, mortal danger, and love. The teens can hardly bear to be apart, but Lena's 16th birthday, when she will be Claimed for dark or light, is only 6 months away. To save her, they fight supernatural powers and the prejudice of closed-minded people. Yet, good and evil are not clearly delineated, nor are they necessarily at odds.
Genre: supernatural; fantasy; romance; gothic
Note: #4 for the YA Series Challenge (Beautiful Creatures Series)
This is a modern gothic romance done right. I've seen so many YA and even adult series try and fail at this genre, it was refreshing to see one get it completely right. Atmospheric and dark, nothing is quite what it seems. The areas between good and evil are blurred into a gray where maybe nothing is really strictly good OR evil. How else could you explain good demons or people who wanted desperately to be good turning bad? Good people make choices with terrible results, but in the end how much of it is fate and how much is it people making fate work for themselves?
Lena and Ethan's romance is intense and could have easily become ridiculous, but it was believable that two people so different from everyone around them would be drawn together. Lena has a penchant for being melodramatic, but there's always someone to tell her so rather than so many books where characters are either allowed to mope around forever or do ridiculous things. Ethan and Lena are both proactive about trying to find an answer to things, but there is no real answer. No one just solves the mystery and everything goes on its way, Lena makes a choice and there are serious consequences.
There are also lovely family members here. Macon might be strange and genuinely scary, but he loves Lena like a daughter. Amma is Ethan's only parent now, with the death of his mother and break down of his father. Various family members do everything they can to protect Lena and Ethan and I've never wanted to stand up and cheer harder in a book when Macon shows up at the PTA meeting to singlehandedly take the entire town of Gatlin to task. If he was infuriating for not telling Lena the truth before, he completely redeemed himself for every frustrating decision he'd made beforehand.
And the characters were not only battling real evil, but also the evil that is part of every day life, with judgmental town members and hateful cheerleaders and people who like pointing out others short comings without realizing their own. This is a beautiful read that might be long, but never slows down on the way to its cataclysmic ending.