I first read Beautiful Creatures in July of 2009. At the time I was reeling from a burgeoning new love of Young Adult novels, having been sucked in by both the Twilight series and Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments in 2007. I was trying to get my hands on anything that seemed promising. Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s debut novel was more than promising, it was a revelation. I have always loved Southern Gothic, the works of Tennessee Williams, Harper Lee, anything set in a small town in the South. Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl hit every note that I wanted with this book.
Rereading this (pre-movie, of course) I felt the familiarity of coming home. But it was a bittersweet read this time. I found myself impatient for the ending midway through the book (where I think the pacing suffered just a little). I found myself wanting to get to the next book. Now, whether that warrants a deduction in score I am willing to overlook it. Because it’s still a pretty brilliant book, overall.
Ethan has lived in Gatlin, South Carolina all of his life. He has longed to leave everything behind, hiding who he is so that the negativity of the community does not target him. But that was before Lena Duchannes breezed into town like a hurricane. Lena is the niece of the infamous town shut-in, Macon Ravenwood. The Ravenwoods are the oldest family in the community, responsible for shaping the town of Gatlin. But Lena is viewed with a mixture of both fear and contempt instead of the respect her family name commands. She is an outsider, she dresses differently and, worse yet, behaves differently than the other young women of Gatlin. Ethan is brutally attracted to her differences and though she rebuffs his advances the two eventually find themselves drawn together in an explosive relationship that will rock the foundations of Gatlin to its core.
There is one problem that may come between them – Lena comes from a family with a strange past. As her sixteenth birthday approaches she will either succumb to her family’s secret, or be overwhelmed by it… and the suspense of what will happen is killing her. Will Ethan turn his back on everything he has ever known to embrace a girl who has a curse looming over her head?
This is a gorgeously written book, full of depth, mood, and heart. Combining the atmosphere of a Tennessee Williams play with the racial issues of “To Kill a Mockingbird”… and then add the beautiful and tragic angst of a young adult romance. It’s good…it’s oh so good. Not to be missed especially if you like mood and atmosphere in your romance novels.
Now that the series is wrapping up, and more people know about this series, it is one of those moments (as an early reviewer and bookseller) that is very heart wrenching. I have seen the peaks and lows of sales (i.e. interest) and I have seen this little book become something big. It is very bittersweet to see this series take off and fly, and my congratulations go out to the authors for not only making it to the bestseller stage, but also to the film stage (which I cannot wait to see). I feel guilty on some level rereading this series, but it’s a gift I am giving to myself leading up to the film as one of the booksellers who made this book rise. When the hardcover came out I sold 100 copies to customers, which is nothing to sneeze at in the area of floor book sales. It was always the little handsell that could, so I am thrilled to see where it is now, four years later.
5 out of 5 stars.
And, of course, the first official trailer.