Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Nothing ever changes in Gatlin, South Carolina. Nothing. Ask Ethan Wate, he's lived in this small, isolated southern town his entire life and is counting down the months until he can leave. Desperately bored, Ethan has been hoping for something to shake up his small town when the undeniably realistic dreams of a dark-haired beauty in trouble begin. When Ethan unexpectedly meets the girl of his (literal) dreams, Ethan's entire world seems to shrink to the size of two people. Lena Duchannes is unlike anybody in Gatlin. Her clothes are wrong, her hair is wrong, and she just happens to be related to the towns most feared inhabitant, again, all wrong. Strange things seem to happen around Lena and with the entire town of Gatlin ready to begin a witch hunt, Ethan is the only one who wants to not only discover why but to help Lena. He alone is determined to figure out his connection to this beautiful and mysterious girl.

Beautiful Creatures is an intriguing premise: magic deeply connected to the very culture of a small, southern town - where only magic like that could survive - which only a few are aware of. It's beautifully written at times, although sometimes a bit long-winded, and very atmospheric. Notwithstanding all that extremely descriptive, lush writing, I sometimes had trouble ultimately taking that final, definitive step into actually believing Beautiful Creatures. Mainly because I would read this perfectly composed passage of heartfelt reflection and then stop and think: wait, this is a sixteen year old BOY talking here. No matter how sensitive, educated or cultured he may be, I just couldn't quite believe a teenage boy would notice every little detail - emotional and physical - in a situation. Even if that boy was someone as special as Ethan Wate. Perhaps I am prejudiced and am perpetuating a stereotype, but there it is. Frankly the novel often felt as if it was a guy's story, but one that  had then been filtered through a female lens. Which I guess in a way, it is.

But really, that is my only complaint. Like I said before, the writing was atmospheric, evocative, and just so down-right Southern. I myself was born and raised in Georgia and am one of those girls that can make biscuits in her sleep (you gotta use both butter and shortening people). My grandma and great-aunt really and truly are known as The Sisters in their small North Georgia town. Being a product of it's culture, I have a pretty good handle on the South. And Beautiful Creatures fit. The prejudices, the fierce clinging to tradition, the food (good heavens, the food!), the superstitions - all of it was authentic and made me down-right homesick. Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl must have really done their homework before developing the isolated community of Gatlin because it's obvious these two women have sat down with a plate (or two) of homemade fried chicken.

series reading order:
~ Beautiful Creatures
~ Beautiful Darkness (Oct. 2010)

Because Everyone Loves a Second Opinion:
The Book Smugglers review
Confessions of a Book Junkie review
Library Lounge Lizard review
My Friend Amy review
Not Enough Bookshelves review

book source: my local library


Holly said...

It's good to know from a real Southerner that it fit. That real feeling of place was the best part about this book IMO.

Christine said...

Hi Michelle, I loved this book, and agree with you regarding the sophistication of this teenage boy's perspective. I had a tiny bit of trouble with that in the beginning, too. Every once in a while I'd stop reading and think, "Wait. A seventeen year old boy is thinking this? Really?" But I found everything else about the book really wonderful, so I soon took 'seventeen year old boy' out of my mind and just thought 'Ethan'--and then the story just flowed from there.

Angiegirl said...

Truthfully? This one was a DNF for me. I hesitate to categorize it as such because it's still on my shelf and I didn't hate it, I just wasn't compelled to stay. I loved the first chunk and the atmosphere and everything. And then, over time, it just started to feel . . . hokey. I don't know if that's the right word. And maybe I should come back to it at some point. Could have been just me.

Michelle said...

Holly - I agree that the setting is the best part of the book. It was an interesting read - and your review was one that made me pick it up!

Christine - Ethan's voice was sort of hard to overcome huh? The problem is that the descriptions were often so lovely...just not 'boy' to me. But it's true, if you didn't think about that, it was a pretty compelling read.

Angie - To be honest, I'm not at all surprised it was a DNF for you. I started and stopped several times myself. For me the beginning while stuff was sort of building was when I struggled though. I'd say try it again (eventually) but I'm not exactly in any real hurry to pick up the sequel either...