To be honest, I’ve been feeling a bit of YA fatigue lately. I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, I have read quite a few really good YA books, and to be honest, I wish we had this much variety available when I was younger. That being said, it feels like wherever I turn, there’s the Next Big YA Series coming out, the one perfect for fans of Hunger Games. After a while, even the well-written ones start to sound the same to me — yet another dystopian world, yet another kick-ass heroine, yet love triangle, and so on. Full respect to the writers who create these stories and to the readers who love them, but I, at least, need a break.
So when my sister brought home Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures, finished it (all 563 pages!) in a single day, and suggested I read it, I was hesitant. Beyond my YA fatigue, there’s also a movie version coming out, so I was expecting to soon be overwhelmed by online buzz. Still, I figured I might as well give it a try. And I am so glad I did.
Beautiful Creatures is a brilliant Southern gothic — atmospheric, romantic, and haunting. I love that Garcia and Stohl tell the story from the guy’s perspective, and that there is no love triangle. I especially love that, while the focus of the story is the romance, there is an entire world beyond the love story, and the characters’ actions have significance far beyond their relationship. From the first chapter, I felt myself drawn into this world, and I wanted to find out more. The book did strike me as long, but the story is fascinating. It’s also really scary — I can definitely imagine it playing out well on screen, and I can just picture myself covering my eyes in the theatre.
When Lena Duchannes moves into the mysterious Ravenwood house in the small Southern town of Gatlin, Ethan Wate recognizes her from his dreams and is immediately drawn to her. Her family is cursed. They are Casters (they can cast spells), and while other Casters can choose their destiny, each Duchannes is Claimed at the age of 16 by either Light or Dark. As a powerful Natural Caster, Lena is a prize to both the Light and the Dark, and a prophecy later in the book reveals exactly how significant she is. Ethan is an ordinary boy, but he’s determined to protect Lena from the Dark as much as he can. At the very least, he fights to protect her from the other kids in school who have labelled Lena a witch simply because her uncle is the town recluse.
Beautiful Creatures has romance, but more than that, it has curses, ghosts, mystery, and, well, very real emotions. I love how, even though Lena has to deal with Dark Casters and curses, one of her major concerns is how to have a normal teenaged life before she is Claimed. Like an ordinary teenager, she just wants to have a good time at the school dance and to face a school day without being teased. In one particularly heartbreaking scene, she is invited to a party by the popular girls in her class. Lena knows they are under a spell by another Caster, but she pleads with her uncle to let her go anyway: “I want to go to a party I’m invited to. I mean, I know it’s all Ridley [casting a spell], but is it wrong if I don’t care?” As Ethan notes, “She wants to be part of all this, even if it wasn’t real.” How sad is that, and how much can we all relate to it?
Speaking of Ridley, I found myself very fascinated by her character. A childhood friend of Lena’s, she was Claimed by Dark at 16 and is now no longer welcome to her own family. She seems genuinely pained by this rejection, which makes me wonder if being Claimed as a Dark Caster makes one as absolutely evil as everyone seems to think. I love that Garcia and Stohl made her character a bit ambiguous; in her own way, she appears just as vulnerable as Lena, and I’d love to find out more of her thoughts.
The secondary characters in this book were also fascinating. I love Amma and Macon, both mentor figures who seem to have exciting pasts of their own. I also love Ethan’s best friend Link, the comic relief who I hope may be able to get through to Ridley. Finally, I love how much of this book revolves around a library — the town librarian works at a Caster library on bank holidays, and that just seems like such a magical, fascinating place.
Beautiful Creatures is such a fascinating book, and I can only begin to imagine where Garcia and Stohl will take the rest of the series!