Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beautiful Creatures

Authors: Kami Garcia and Margi Stohl
Publisher: Little Brown
Pages: 563
Reading Level: YA

Excerpt from cover of book:
“Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she is struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even with 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.”

In my eyes, there are books and then there are BOOKS. Every time I crack open a book, I wonder if this will be the one. The book that whisks me away to a new place, consumes me, calls to me, and lures me away from other things. Is it a book that haunts my thoughts? Does it make me believe that I am there in its world vs. being in my world? And most importantly, when I finish the last page, does it make me want to go back and read it over and over again?

A few months ago, I heard about the upcoming release of Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margi Stohl. I had not previously heard of Garcia and Stohl and aside from a really well done book trailer by VLC productions all I knew was that it was a YA Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Love story. For whatever reason, I found myself really drawn to it and became a fan of the book before even reading it. This can be dangerous in a way. What happens when the book finally comes out? Will it live up to expectations or fall flat? I took a risk with it and I am so glad that I did.

Beautiful Creatures is definitely one of those books that meet the criteria for “stand out” book in a genre. After reading about 15 pages, I found myself being consumed by the story. If I hadn’t needed to be a responsible adult, I would have just kept reading and finished it in one sitting. However, by the time I got up to 300 pages, my ability to be a responsible adult was quickly taking second place to my need to finish the book.

Garcia and Stohl have created a story that is gorgeous, haunting, and addictive. There is a bit of a risk that an author(s) take when a debut novel is 563 pages. Either you better be able to capture the reader right from the beginning or risk losing them after 200 or 300 pages. Never once did I have the sense that the story was taking too long or why hadn’t it ended yet. The writing is rich and well-crafted. What is also amazing to me is that the writing is seamless. There is no sense that this is a novel written by two people. It is written as one authorial voice with both authors being deeply in-tune with one another.

As I read through Beautiful Creatures, I appreciated the balance between being given enough information to understand the story but also enough questions and mysteries left for me as the reader to ponder where the story would go next. I dislike when I feel that the author is holding back or not giving me the information that I need to fully grasp the tale. I never once felt that way as I read through the book. There were questions that arose and ones that I had at the end, but I felt that these might be answered in the sequel.

Another element that I was drawn to in the story was the sense of place and history that is evoked by the plot and characters. I could imagine myself in Gatlin, seeing Amma make biscuits or pie, feel the humidity, or hear the southern drawl of the characters. I was fascinated with how Garcia and Stohl used the past and tied it into the present. And there was a community feel. Most YA fiction seems to leave out adults. However, Ethan and Lena were surrounded by adults – some who cared, some who got in there way, some who were dangerous, and some who assisted them.

Finally as I read through Beautiful Creatures, I was also struck by how Garcia and Stohl balanced tension, conflict, and mystery throughout the story. I didn’t just feel like the characters were solely in love with one another and caught up in their own world. Instead the challenges faced by both Lena and Ethan kept them solidly grounded in real life issues even whilst dealing with supernatural ones.

For those of you who enjoy YA Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Love Stories, you will find Beautiful Creatures to be an enjoyable read.


P.S. I have recently contacted Kami Garcia and Margi Stohl about doing an interview for YA Literature Review. Both have graciously agreed to meet with me, so keep an eye out for an interview posting.

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