Sunday, January 24, 2010

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is dark, frightening, and wonderful

So Junkies, I'm not sure if I should write this review because a) I'm not sure if Lena is actually a heroine and b) the ending pissed me off.

I was, however, sleep deprived for an entire week because I stayed up WAY past my bedtime reading this book, I just couldn't put it down until I heard grumblings next to me, "You know what time it is, right?" (the circles under my eyes are all part of this addiction, baby)

I loved this paranormal romance, so I figured I might as well take a minute and tell you why.

Beautiful Creatures is narrated by a sixteen-year-old boy, Ethan, who falls for a supernatural  fifteen-year-old girl, Lena.  It was surprisingly refreshing to be inside the head of a teenage boy who hangs out with basketball players who spend their time commenting on the relative hotness of the girls around them.  These teens were very real, which is something I treasure in YA, because I spend all day with teenagers and I can spot a phony a mile away.  This book was realistic in showing that teens' day-to-day stresses are more about where they fit in on the social ladder and less about homework and what their parents are up to.

I loved the layers of conflict in this story.  Lena and Ethan struggle with their feelings for each other, the magic that surrounds them, and the small town with a mob-mentality working hard to make thier lives miserable.  For me, the Civil War worshiping Southerners and DAR women were way creepier than any black magic or voodoo.

That's what makes Beautiful Creatures so dark and frightening and wonderful.  The history of this small town is woven together with old prejudices, which is woven together with magic, which is woven together with secrecy, which results in a complex and compelling story.

I believed the magic, but more importantly, I believed the relationship.  Ethan and Lena share something so rare in YA: intimacy.

Granted, it helps to get to know someone when you share dreams and read each other's thoughts, but still.  Lena and Ethan talk, share secrets, talk about their hopes and fears.  They spend months together, building a relationship, starting off as friends, until it's clear they care so much for each other that as Ethan says, "there's no going back."
And when it's time, they're both terrified of their feelings because they know how vulnerable it makes them, know how much they stand to lose, know how much the other could hurt them.  I bought their love, hook, line, and sinker.

That's what teen love can look like, people.  Not "Hey baby, aren't I dangerous and smoldering?  I love you so much I peep through your window every night.'  'Ooh, I love you too, the world is a scary place, protect me?'  'Of course, I'll kill anyone who looks at you, that's how much I love you' Swoon."

Lena is one bad ass female who does what she can to protect Ethan from the curse that plagues her and, most importantly, from herself.  She's a wonderful mix of powerful and vulnerable.  She's only learning what she's capable of. She can cause a hurricane on a whim, but is terrified of the bitchy cheerleaders.  Lena is dark and dangerous and is balanced by Ethan's optimism.

So, Junkies, here I was, flipping pages, losing sleep, biting my nails.  Terrified for Ethan and Lena because of the magic, the danger, the secrecy, the prophecy, the sacrifices, the choices, the creepy Civil War reenactment.  Will they be able to hold on to their love through it all? 

And then what do I get?  Not an ending, not a resolution, but a postponement.  I'm sorry Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (side note how DO two people write a book together?  You must share dreams and thoughts like Ethan and Lena), your book is amazing.  It's beautiful and dark, but your ending pissed me off.  I mean, I kind of get it, maybe you wanted to leave us wanting more, priming us for the sequel.  And if that's the case, it worked.  But I read the last page like 10 times, mumbling to myself, "that's it?"

Ok, Junkies, I just did a litle tap-tapping on google and discovered that Beautiful Creatures is only the first in a FIVE book series.  The sequel will be out in December.  Phew!  Ok, my addict anger has slightly abated.  I will, however, be simmering until that sequel is in my shaky, scratchy hands.

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