Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 563 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316042676
ISBN-13: 978-0316042673
Series: Beautiful Creatures #1
Source: Bought at Books-A-Million
Cover: This is cover love for me. Ever since I saw this first cover, I've been smitten with these novels, especially since they work so well for the Gothic Southern feel of the books. However, I wish the font were purple since this is narrated by a boy and yellow and green are so important to the story. But those angry grey tree silhouette are a little slice of heaven!
First Sentence: There were only two kinds of people in our town.

Mini-Review: A delightfully Southern Gothic read that is intensely romantic and hard to put down

There were no surprises in Gatlin County.
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.
At least, that's what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.

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 delightfully Southern Gothic read that is intensely romantic and hard to put down. I didn't expect to write that a book told solely in a male's point of view would be romantic but by the end, I was a complete believer. With a setting that oozes mood and charm, a cast of finely tuned and wildly interesting characters and a plot that keeps plenty of twists in its pages, it is one hard book to put down.

I've read other reviews that have had a real problem with the main character Ethan. They state that he just isn't believable because of how crazy he is for Lena, how polite he is to grown ups, how interested he is in what Lena wears and how he spends his Saturdays helping out with his trio of crazy old Aunts. I can understand this point of view, I just don't agree with it. Boys don't have to just like sports and not notice what a girl is wearing. They come in a variety of flavors and I loved that Ethan was so varied. He was a pretty good basketball player though he wasn't in love with the game but he also liked to read classic books. Yeah, he noticed what Lena was wearing sometimes but he also realized that she dressed to match her mood. I think that these things made him special and allowed girls to relate to him as easily as men. So I had no problems with him. He was from the South and he was bred to be a well mannered Southern boy who respects his elders and says "ma'am".

I thought Lena was just as good of a character though I did have a few problems with her. I understood that she'd been bullied her entire life but a lot of the time, she got mad or upset and I had NO clue why, I was just as baffled as Ethan. I just had a hard time understanding her motivations. I did love all of her corky characteristics though. I thought her necklace full of junk and the way she loved to play with the clouds was brilliant.

The authors did an awesome job really making Gatlin seem like a character in the book. It felt alive and breathing to me. Sometimes it was way too small with its one stop shop and how everybody knew everyone else's business but then we'd get a little chapter about the scenery and I'd be blown away but just how beautiful and mysterious it was. It really was the perfect setting to add mood to the book. I could picture all the hanging moss and Ravenwood as if I drove past it every single day. All of the Southern food and customs  really helped bring it to life. How everyone knew their family tree, referred to the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression and were more interested in how the North was unfair than what really happened in history. I felt like I lived there with Ethan.

That's why finding out about Lena and her families' power felt so magical. People often criticism Twilight for being long and showing mundane things about Bella's life but without knowing those, we wouldn't fully appreciate how amazing and magical The Cullen's existence was. This goes the same for the setting in Beautiful Creatures. We saw the Gatlin Ethan grew up in and felt as it shattered away into something all together magical when he met Lena. We saw that right below the streets and houses was a vast Caster library. We saw that Ravenwood may look like a dump but that it's really enchanted. And we were just as enchanted with everything else as Ethan.

The entire Casters system was pretty neat. I read a lot of paranormal so it wasn't completely unique but it was fun. What made it really special and stand out for me was the curse on Lena's family. You get no say whether you go Light or Dark. The power just takes you on your sixteenth birthday. I loved the idea that one day, someone could be as sweet as pie and the next they went black. It made for such an interesting concept and it was for that reason I kept reading so intently.

I think the plot was really well done. I wasn't expecting the ending AT ALL so that really shocked me. What I was expecting was a re-incarnation story. With all the flashback to the past, I was sure that was the way this book was going and I kind of wish it was. The flashbacks were revealed to be important but I'm not sure they were important enough to warrant so much intention. Having it be a re-incarnation story would have really made those flashbacks vital. This is just a personal preference though. I liked how the past and present and even the future never felt too far away. They all sort of blended into one thing. For me, that is a lot like the South so it was perfect.

I was also really impressed that this novel was written by two authors. I can't tell where one started and the other took off. Their voices blended perfectly to create Ethan and I never noticed the writing getting too different. I thought I might and I really did try but it never got to that. I will say that I did think this novel could have been cut down. There were places that really drug for me. I know it's nice to know that they spent a lot of time looking for answers but right before it got to Lena's birthday, I almost lost interest. I felt it could have been trimmed there and a few other places to help with pacing but by the time I got to the end, that didn't really matter for me.

Beautiful Creatures really does weave the magic the South offers into one hell of a debut. Blending the past, present and future into the novel really creates a sense that anything can happen and the sweet romance between Ethan and Lena is guaranteed to make you smile. Dripping with charm and chills around every page, Beautiful Creatures is one book you won't mind if it "ma'am"'s you!


Favorite Sentences:
When she was in one of these moods, my mom used to call it going dark--religion and superstition all mixed up, like it can only be in the South.
--Pg. 8 of "Beautiful Creatures" by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
I felt a steamroller plow into my back. and Emily pushed through the doorway as if I wasn't standing there, which was her way of saying hello and expecting me to follow her to the back of the room...
--Pg. 34 of "Beautiful Creatures" by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
When I looked at her, I was farther away from Gatlin than I'd ever been.
--Pg. 53 of "Beautiful Creatures" by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
I tried not to look surprised , but I'm pretty sure it gave me away when I almost jumped out of my skin.
--Pg. 120 of "Beautiful Creatures" by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
"You can't jump  off a cliff when you've already fallen off a bigger one." (Ethan)
--Pg. 183 of "Beautiful Creatures" by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Old paper, which my mom used to say was the smell of time itself.
--Pg. 224 of "Beautiful Creatures" by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Darkness, real darkness, was something more than just a lack of light.
--Pg. 295 of "Beautiful Creatures" by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
It felt like the Book was stealing a little bit of my breath each time I inhaled.
--Pg. 350 of "Beautiful Creatures" by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
It wasn't my mother's smile, but it was one of my mother's favorite smiles.
--Pg. 423 of "Beautiful Creatures" by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
"I have never loved you any less than I do, right this second. And I'll never love you any less then I do, right this second." (Ethan)
--Pg. 561 of "Beautiful Creatures" by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Book Trailer:

Movie Trailer:


  1. What you said about Ethan was very well put. When I first read this novel, I don't remember ever being put off by his voice, but when I read other reviews, I was a bit miffed. I still have to reread this in time for the movie, since I don't remember a whole lot of what happens. Your review stirred a few things in my memory, though, and got me excited anew :).

  2. Great review. I didn't realise people had a problem with Ethan being polite and everything. I'm just stereotyping here seeing as I've never been to America, but I thought that's what a Southern gentleman was... I agree with you about the chopping down. I feel like all of them could probably benefit from that. I really like them but they just take a while to get through.

  3. HOORAY! We both finished this one! You liked it more than I did, but I think I was just really bogged down with the length. I had a hard time getting through it because it was just SO LONG!

    But I agree about Ethan. I liked him a lot! It was nice to be inside the head of a boy who wasn't SO hormonal that I felt like I needed a cold shower after reading, you know? That gets old. And I agree about the well-mannered Southern boy; I grew up with a lot of boys like him. And I think I actually liked Ethan more than I liked Lena.


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