Kick back on your porch with some sweet tea and listen to this southern-fried review! In this episode, Robert and Bryan take on the Gatlin, South Carolina-set Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.
Bryan’s quick summary:
Ethan Wate’s only escape from the oppressively normal life of Gatlin, South Carolina has been the haunting girl from his dreams. Or are they nightmares? Regardless, Ethan’s normalcy is lost for good when Lena Duchannes, the actual girl from his dreams comes to town. As the two of them fall for each other, Ethan must help Lena cope with a horrible curse that could count down the days until she’s lost to the darkness. Can love conquer all when magic and evil are conspiring to destroy it?
Beautiful Creatures is by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
So what did we think? (From a reader’s perspective)
1. (Bryan) This was the longest book we’ve read, and so I’m inclined to say that Beautiful Creatures was overlong, but I also really liked a lot of the backstory and the growing affection between Ethan and Lena. So I liked it, but the jury’s out on the length.
2. (Robert) There is some kissing and the story is clearly a love story, but I’d still recommend it for advanced younger readers. I really loved it. This is a beautifully written story. For the first time in a while, I found myself highlighting turns of phrase, or laughing at a witty line of dialog. There are minor cliffhangers everywhere, and although it’s by no means a page-turner, it’s a story that keeps you reading!
3. (Bryan) Gatlin was a real character here, including its Civil War origin, and I think that added some great depth here. The accents in the audio had me sounding like Frank Underwood from House of Cards.
What did we think from a writer’s perspective?
1. (Bryan) This is a big book with a lot of exposition needed, but I think Garcia and Stohl spread that out enough to keep it from being overwhelming.
2. (Robert) Although the story is richly told, I found myself on occasion slightly bemused by Ethan – as if he was acting strangely. Then later it came to me: he was thinking and feeling more as a female character might be expected to do. Once I realized my minor disquiet, I noticed it more and more. While it never gets in the way of the story, or detracts from Ethan as a character, just sometimes when you’re in his head, he’s a little too sensitive perhaps? He does have some great lines about males, and how they behave around women! Note: After reading the book, I checked out Amazon reviews (as I usually do – never before reading though!), and interestingly, I’m far from the only person who felt Ethan’s voice was too female.
3. (Robert) I was not sure about this book before I read it, having heard about the not-so-great movie (which I haven’t watched yet, so who am I to comment?!), so it was a great surprise. The skill with which the school commentary was handled and the southern cast really appealed to me, and gave it a flavor that was appreciated by this Australian. I note that reviewers and commenters generally are mixed in whether they think it authentic “South” or not – even between those who were born and raised there. I’ve only ever been to Atlanta, so I have no idea about the rest of that area of the US, but it was entertaining enough, and certainly seemed realistic.
Bryan and Robert’s Famous Takeaways:
1. Tell the story you want to tell, no matter how long it is!
2. (Robert) A great read – a loooong story – and well worth ignoring my minor gripes about Ethan and about the POV shift. It made me really reconsider how good (or bad!), my own writing is. For that reason alone, I recommend YA writers especially read this – it’s many many levels above some of the more popular mass-market series’.
3. Read Beautiful Creatures for the characterization – they’re fun! (Well maybe except Ethan’s father …. I – Robert – would have killed him off in the first 10% haha)
Prompt of the Week:
You’ve been told by a mystical force that you’ll turn good or evil on your 16th birthday. How would this change how you lead your life up until the big day? Would you try to stop your fate? Why or why not?