Beautiful Creatures – Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl.
I didn’t want to write this review. Like I said when I reviewed Matched and Crossed, I hate writing bad reviews, mostly because I know how hard it is to get people to read your work, I know how much work and effort goes into writing a book, and I know that books belong to their readers, and just because I didn’t like it, it has no bearing on whether or not the book is any good and whether or not anyone else enjoyed it. I kind of made a vow to myself that when I didn’t like a book I wouldn’t bore the internet with everything I didn’t like about it, but this book left me in two minds, so I’m going to witter about it for a bit.
The premise is as follows: 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.
At first, I thought it was a little generic, small town, small minded people. ordinary boy, new girl arrives, everyone gets the horn then discovers she’s actually the relation of the town recluse and then they hate her. There were many references to To Kill A Mocking Bird which is one of my absolute favourite books so I really liked that aspect of the story, anyway, whilst the rest of the town are hating the new girl purely because she’s new and her uncle is basically Boo Radley, our narrator, the ordinary boy starts to fall for her.
I’ll be honest, it was a bit Twilighty. The mortal and the supernatural (it’s not a spoiler to say that Lena and her family are castors/ witches) thing has been done to death now and the relationship between Lena and Ethan wasn’t all that different to the relationship between Bella and Edward. There were a couple of moments where it reminded me so much of Twilight that my brain saw Ethan but translated that into Edward. It confused me for a bit. Plus, there’s the fact that Edward, sorry, Ethan! and Lena can communicate telepathically, which at no point in the story seemed to bother Ethan in the slightest. I know that if someone I was crushing on suddenly started conversing with me through telepathy I’d be jolly concerned.
Another problem I had with this was that Ethan didn’t read like a teenage boy. I liked that he was one, most YA paranormal romancey types are all narrated by girls so I was quite into the fact that this was narrated by a boy. Only, I kept forgetting that fact because, although I am not a teenage boy myself, I’m fairly certain that they don’t spend their time being internally catty about people’s dieting habits or thinking about women’s clothes. He seemed to me to be more of a middle aged woman than a teenage boy.
Like I said, the references to To Kill a Mockingbird were great and I properly loved the scene at Lena’s hearing when Macon and Marian storm in and verbally eviscerate everyone, that bit was awesome and the overall sense of mystery regarding the enigmatic Lena hooked me in. I also really liked Amma as a character and found the voodoo and the Southern superstitions really interesting but that was about it. The stuff with Amma was never properly explained, you can’t just have someone that can talk to ghosts and creates amulets and not explain how she came to be that way, or how that fits in with the witches and such like. I get the whole, when you’re sixteen things change thing, it was like Sabrina getting her powers or Buffy becoming the slayer only with Lena it was being a good witch or a bad witch but not once was it explained what was going on with Amma’s powers or with Ethan. It was mentioned several times that he supposedly had power, that he could protect Lena in ways that her family of magical folk couldn’t but it’s never discovered what exactly he can do or why he can do it. We never find out why he and Lena share dreams, why those dreams are so real or anything about why…
…a dark caster killed his mum, or even why his mum was haunting the house and shipping him and Lena so hard. I was hoping for a bit of a reincarnation plot twist but as I’m probably not going to bother reading the rest of the series, I guess I’ll be forever disappointed on that front.
The writing wasn’t great either. It was a bit preachy in places especially in regards to the American Civil War, which I don’t know an awful lot about, it’s not really taught in English schools (we have our own civil war to learn about) but it just came across a little preachy to me. The preachiness also made Ethan sound like a complete asshat at times too, for example: “I don’t have an accent because I was raised by educated people.”
Really? I live in Somerset but I don’t have a Somerset accent because one parent is a Londoner and the other grew up in a house with Welsh people but I still have an accent. I hate to break this to you, Ethan, but so do you. Everyone has an accent, no matter how well spoken you think you are, you will still have an accent. To you, that accent is American and there is just no escaping that fact. The whole book painted the South to be a huge mess of ignorance and bigotry which is a massive stereotype and I found harder to believe than the fact that there were witches (or castors) running around. I live in a small town where racism and such like are rife, but there aren’t lynch mobs against fifteen year old girls! And there are just as many liberal minded people as there is ignorance, I’m sure that’s true of everywhere.
There were a lot of clunky sentences in this which shouldn’t have happened considering there are two writers of this book, this should have been close to perfection.
And here’s the reason why I’m torn on this: I actually got quite addicted to this, I wanted to find out what happened on Lena’s birthday, I was intrigued by the dreams and all of that and despite the initial cliches I thought it was an interesting take on witchlore. It could have been really, really good. It just wasn’t executed all that well and in comparison to other paranormal romances that I’ve read, the relationship between Lena and Ethan wasn’t half as unhealthy as others.
I just hope that the film is good because it seemed to me that the book had potential but needed some serious editing, particularly with the narration and the general writing. I’m sure all my plot holes are explained nicely in the sequel, I’m just not sure that I want to waste my time trying to read it.