“Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Grace Troxel 4 June, 2013 Book Reviews 15 comments

“Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret StohlBeautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl
Series: Caster Chronicles #1
Published by Little Brown and Company in 2009
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 563
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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A few days ago at work a library patron brought in this book as a donation for the staff book exchange.  “Please don’t judge me, it’s YA,” she said.  “And it was really good.”  Based on her recommendation, I decided to borrow it for the weekend.

“Beautiful Creatures” isn’t the type of book that I’d have found on my own.  There’s a blurb on the back saying that Twilight fans would love it, which almost always sets of alarm bells in my head.  At the same time, one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and I’m glad that I decided to give this one a chance.  It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a fun read on a relaxing weekend.

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.

Ethan is a normal teenager growing up in a rural Southern town.  It’s the kind of place where everybody knows everybody, and people generally spend their entire lives there.  Ethan’s on the basketball team, and outwardly fits in with his peers, but he also loves reading and dreams of leaving Gatlin once he graduates.  Ethan’s life is forever changed when a new girl named Lena Duchannes moves into town.  As the two teenagers fall in love, they discover that not everything in Gatlin is what it seems.  There’s an obvious supernatural element, but I’m not going to get into it here, because the gradual introduction and revelation of the magical elements were part of what made this book fun to read.

Gatlin is the perfect setting for this novel.  The authors pay close attention to detail, from the Civil War reenactments, the DAR ladies, and the town rivalries and superstitions.  It makes a wonderful setting for a Gothic/paranormal novel, and it was one of the things that sucked me into the book.

I wish that the book had a little bit less emphasis on high school, but at the same time, I give the author a lot of credit for their perspective on it and for getting it right.  Gatlin reminded me a lot of the town where I grew up (albeit slightly less extreme).  It’s the kind of place where everybody’s known everybody since preschool.  Lena’s the new girl, and she’s different.  She wears the wrong clothes, the wrong shoes, and doesn’t interact like a normal person.  That’s why Ethan likes her.  At the same time, Ethan sets himself up for the same alienation when he begins hanging out with her.  The authors capture all the awkwardness and alienation that you get for being yourself instead of following the unspoken rules of high school.  I liked that the drama wasn’t a love triangle, but rather the conflict between following one’s convictions and fitting in with the crowd.

My favorite character in the book is Marian, the librarian, who runs both the public library and a secret magical library.  In the struggle between the forces of light and darkness, she takes a strictly neutral position, and doesn’t get involved except in the context of her work as a librarian.

Even though the book did a lot of things right, there are still a few things that annoyed me.  Just basic typical YA book/movie tropes, like the supernatural significance of the 16th birthday, or a curse that seems oddly specific for no reason whatsoever.  Also, the ending didn’t really make sense, and could have been thought out a lot better (Really?  The moon is obscured so she doesn’t get Claimed and gets to be both good and evil?  Have there not been clouds for the past 150 years?).

Despite its problems, I did enjoy “Beautiful Creatures.”  It reminded me a bit of late 1990s Disney Channel movies, so there was definitely a nostalgia factor at work, even if some parts did make me roll my eyes a bit.  It makes good beach or vacation reading, where you don’t want something that involves too much thinking, but are still looking for a book that will make you forget about the world for a while.  At the same time, I don’t feel the need to read the sequels.


15 Responses to ““Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl”

  1. TBM

    I saw this recently and wondered about it. I might give it a go. Perfect summer read. Now I just need to find a beach–not warm enough in London for me to put on a swimsuit and laze about on the sand. Barcelona sounds nice–I love to dream.

    • Grace

      Barcelona would be lovely. One of these days I need a real vacation, or to travel again. :)

      The book is definitely best for vacation/light reading. It’s not at all serious, but still fun.

  2. Geoff W

    I’m still debating on reading this as I’ve read quite a few mixed reviews. I will probably end up reading it as I watched the film adaptation a few weeks ago.

      • Geoff W

        It was pretty good and the effects where better than expected. They made it seem that she made the moon go away, like the opposite if a full moon and that’s why she chose/ended up in the middle. (I didn’t think it was too scary.)

        • Grace

          Haha, by “scary” I was thinking “horrifically bad mash-up of Sabrina and Charmed” that I’d still consider watching if no one else was home.

          • Geoff W

            Haahaa. Ah, nah it was surprising good. A bit of questionable acting but they were young and or cute enough to excuse it. Love love love Emma Thompson, she was great as always.

  3. Jami Zehr

    I read this and agree with your assessment. It’s interesting and fun read with some issues. Though I think you would like the second book more as it features more of Marian and the library, books and research, etc. (But like you, I never feel an immediate desire to read the next book, even thought I probably should just to understand the culmination of the story.)

    • Grace

      That makes me kind of curious about the next book, even though the first didn’t really make me feel like I had to keep reading. Marian was awesome, and I loved how strict allegiance to her profession was a defining character trait.

      • Jami Zehr

        I would say if you have the time and want to, it’s interesting how they develop that character. But yes, I never really felt like I had to keep on reading for either book.

  4. Deb Atwood

    I’ve been hearing about this book. It does sound fun. I’ll keep an eye out for it. Sounds like it could be good for reluctant teen readers, too.

  5. Jenni

    I LOVED this book! Yes, everyone should read it! This is at the top of my list with The Forever Girl and I’m so glad they made it to a movie.

    • Grace

      Glad you enjoyed it! I passed it on to another coworker when I finished reading it, so now more people shall be sucked in! Buahahahaha! :)

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