Sunday, January 20, 2013

REVIEW: Beautiful Creatures

Garcia, K. and Stohl, M.  (2009).  Beautiful Creatures.  Boston:  Little Brown and Company.

563 pages.

Appetizer:  Ethan Wate wants nothing more than to leave Gatlin, South Carolina where his family has lived for almost two centuries.  But as a sophomore in high school, an escape to college is a long way off.

When a new girl named Lena arrives to town, she'll cause controversy that will force Ethan to choose between his comfortable place in the Gatlin community and Lena, who may prove to be both magical and dangerous.

After years of hearing this was a good series, and after adding the book to the To Be Read Mountain several years ago, I finally got around to reading Beautiful Creatures in light of seeing the movie previews.

Starting the book was a complete surprise.  I'd assumed the novel would be from Lena's perspective.  (And the book does include her perspective for a key segment near the end.)  Based on the movie previews, I would have bet good money that Lena narrated the entire story.  But as a change from many paranormal young adult novels, Beautiful Creatures is narrated by Ethan.

I also liked that the YA novel had a Southern setting.  The small town experience that the book provided was both interesting and frustrating.  While I'd like to argue that some of the behaviors of the people in Gatlin were hard to believe, I suspect there are people like the Gatlin mean girls and town crazies out there.

To get through this book, I decided to listen to the audio book (since all of my actual reading time must go to the books I teach and the Cybils award finalists).  The audio book used a lot of sound effects, which was a nice touch.  Some of the effects could have been more dramatic.  The narration describes this huge dramatic moment of a window breaking and the sound that the audio book used was less than impressive.  But other sound effects really added to the story.  The audiobook actually included multiple versions of the "Sixteen Moons" song.  The main version kept getting stuck in my head.   (Apparently you can download the song as a free podcast on iTunes.)

The story is engaging, but I can't say that it amazed me or kept me on the edge of my seat.  Whether because I've seen the movie previews or because I'm just that awesome of a reader, I found that the mystery elements were either predictable or obvious.  I also found Ridley, Lena's cousin, to be a ridiculously annoying character.  Just about every scene with her made me want to roll my eyes or cringe.  Ugh.

I also thought that Ethan should have had more of a reaction to learning that magic was real.  He pretty much just accepts the revelations as they come instead of acknowledging that his worldview has been shaken.  Call me crazy, but if I start to have a telepathic link to the person I have a crush on, it's going to raise some questions and lead to a doctor's visit.

Overall, I found the book enjoyable, but it wasn't anything to go crazy or lose sleep over.  I may continue reading the series...but it won't be anytime soon.

Dinner Conversation:

"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." (p. 1)

I was free falling, tumbling through the air.
She called to me, and just the sound of her voice made my heart race.
"Help me!"
She was falling, too.  I stretched out my arm, trying to catch her.  I reached out, but all I caught was air.  There was no ground beneath my feet, and I was clawing at mud.  We touched fingertips and I saw green sparks in the darkness.
Then she slipped through my fingers, and all I could feel was loss." (p. 4)

"'Dude, did you hear?'
"Hear what?"
"There's a new girl at Jackson."
"There are a ton of new girls, a whole freshman class of them, moron."
"I'm not talkin' about the freshmen.  There's a new girl in our class."  At any other high school, a new girl in the sophomore class wouldn't be news.  But this was Jackson, and we hadn't had a new girl in school since third grade." (p. 17)

"There she was.  Lena Duchannes.  The new girl, who would still be called that fifty years from now, if she wasn't still called Old Man Ravenwood's niece, handing a pink transfer slip to Mrs. English, who squinted to read it." (pp. 33-34)

"Sixteen moons, sixteen years
Sound of thunder in your ears
Sixteen miles before she nears
Sixteen seeks what sixteen fears.... (p. 37)

"There was someone in the road!
I pulled on the wheel with both hands, as hard as I could.  My body slammed against the side of the door.
Her hand was outstretched.  I closed my eyes for the impact, but it never came.
The Beater jerked to a stop, not more than three feet away.  The headlights made a pale circle of light in the rain, reflecting off one of those cheap plastic rain ponchos you can buy for three dollars at the drugstore.  It was a girl.  Slowly, she pulled the hood off her head, letting the rain run down her face.  Green eyes, black hair.
Lena Duchannes." (pp. 42-43)

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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