Monday, July 22, 2013

Double Review: Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures
Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Series: Caster Chronicles, #1
Genre: Paranormal, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Fantastic
On Goodreads

Oh yes. Oh yes. Beautiful Creatures. My advice: watch the movie, and then stop about halfway, pick up the book, and finish where you left off. I am quite aware this is akin to sacrilege in the world of books, but honestly, the movie does so much better in introducing the characters and establishing their connections. If you're too hardcore for that option, however, the book's introduction only trails behind by a couple of stars.

Beautiful Creatures begins somewhat . . . predictable, yet at the same time not at all. The introduction of Gatlin immediately individualizes our narrator, separating him from the intolerable sameness that is his home. He wants what all teenagers would want: to get out. And immediately we have a connection. So far, so good. Then:
There was a curse. There was a girl. And in the end, there was a grave. I never even saw it coming. (Garcia and Stohl, 3)
I immediately thought this a bit tacky and lame . . . but by the end of the book I wholeheartedly stuffed those words back into my mouth. This is mainly because the authors are just brilliant at making the commonplace turn into something magical, to make the most boring town in history a perfect battleground. The authors do really well on tying these two extremes together. For example, I knew from the very beginning that Ethan and Lena were a thing, and that the world would do everything in its power to tear them apart . . . but I was still fascinated by how these two fall in love, and what exactly it was that the world had for in store for them.

Speaking of Ethan: it is a bloody relief to have a male narrate a romance. Props to the authors for that; romances are not one sided ordeals. Ethan does what humans usually do in a mysterious and magical novel: he keeps us grounded and gives us a view we can understand. And his view is quite special. In fact, Ethan's voice is what makes the romance so powerful.
Is that her name? Lena. . . . Did you hear anything else about her? (26)
It's adorable reading the scene around this excerpt. He's so flustered and absorbed by the thought of her. She's different. She's not Gatlin, and that excites him, and draws the line further between him and the others in his town. They hate her, he can't. He's immediately caught up on her, even when his most trusted authority, Amma, tells him to stay away from her. With a dead mother and a recluse for a father, he doesn't need more trouble. But he can't help himself. This is the start of a romance that builds and builds throughout the book, slowly at first and then bursting, blinking out and flaring up constantly. Soon enough, they're inseparable.
Say the word and we'll go, Lena. (150) 
Soon enough, he's willing to do anything for her. And it's not overwhelming. In effect, Ethan's feelings allow us a way to understand Lena, who can be so far out of Gatlin and the world of us ordinary humans. And that makes it so much more real. What's amazing about this novel is that it keeps the romance a focus and centerpiece rather than constantly letting it gush out disgustingly. What assists this is the back story (Ethan vs. history), the social commentary (Lena vs. bigotry), and the captivating lore of Casters.

And let's not forget Uncle Macon. Brilliant, brilliant character. Imagine if Gandalf was just cranky and snappy all the time, and you've got Uncle Macon. He acts, initially, as just comic relief and mystery along with Amma, and I won't tell you how it escalates because Macon is a journey you have to trek yourself. In fact, most of the secondary characters are just brilliant. Marian delivers the best line of the book:
Teenagers -- everything's so apocalyptic. (320)
Amma's the nanny you wish you had, Ridley is a kind of evil you've got to get addicted to.

By the middle of the novel, everything has picked up and mysteries are unfolding and suspense is pouring and basically everything hates Lena except the things that want to kill Lena. It's brilliant, and how it unfolds . . . well, go and find out (hint: it's flawless and roiling with emotions and my applause goes to the authors for tying everything in this novel so well together at the end because Ethan is right: you never see it coming).

- Marlon

Kiersten's Beautiful Creatures Review
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Awesome

I'm inclined to disagree with Marlon on the part about the movie being much better than the book. Sure, the movie has magnificent dialogue, but so much was changed in the movie adaptation. The movie had much less of the magnificent mystery that Garcia and Stohl worked up and much more of a dramatic love story. Don't get me wrong, I loved both the movie and the book, but the book just adds a lot more onto the characters than the movie. For example, one of my favorite characters Ridley. In the movie, you see the confident side of Ridley and her cowardly side, but you don't see her sensitivity or her relationships with the other characters like you do in the book.

Anyway, this book pulled me in from the second I started reading all the way until the end. Even though my initial thought of the book, based on the synopsis and the movie advertisements, was that it was simply a love story about a Caster and a normal boy, once I started reading, I realized how wrong I was. The mystery aspect of the book really kept me enticed and anxious to find out the secrets behind Lena's family. I, also, really enjoyed the characters, especially nearing the end. Ridley and Amma really became fuller characters at the end of the book.  Overall, I really loved Beautiful Creatures. It was unlike anything I've ever read before and gave a really interesting twist on witches.

Oh, and random thought. The soundtrack for the Beautiful Creatures movie is so amazing. You should definitely check that out. Alice Englert (Lena) has a song on it and it is A+mazing.

- Kiersten

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