Lately, I’ve been reading some pretty heavy hitters (Anna Karenina, Northanger Abbey, A Visit from the Goon Squad, Helter Skelter). I was craving an easy read, so I picked up Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. I had actually already seen the movie (mostly because I love Emma Thompson and Viola Davis), and thought the book might be pretty interesting.
Beautiful Creatures takes place in the quintessential (and fictional) Southern town of Gatlin, where people are either “too stupid to leave” or “too stuck to move.” The arrival of fifteen-year-old Lena Duchannes throws the (mostly) tight-knight town for a loop. For Ethan Wate, it turns out that the girl who is so different from the rest is literally the girl of his dreams. While the rest of the town ostracizes her, Ethan befriends Lena and finds out she’s a Caster (which is kind of like a witch), and will either be claimed by the dark or the light on her sixteenth birthday.
It’s hard to describe this book without sounding cheesy. While it shares many elements with your typical paranormal teenage romance, Beautiful Creatures is still pretty unique (at least from what I’ve read). I really enjoyed the Southern setting and all of the quirks that came with it, from the elderly trio of aunts attempting to raise baby squirrels, the omnipresent DAR, and the fact that everybody knows everybody in the small town. While the love story is a bit predictable, the magical elements were interesting, and the secondary characters actually had some depth. I actually really liked Lena’s uncle, Macon Ravenwood, and Ethan’s surrogate mother Amma. The characters seem real and, even when they’re not, human. It was a nice break from some of the impervious (supernatural or otherwise) teenage characters that seem so popular lately. I also really loved that the novel is told from Ethan’s perspective – I can’t think of another young adult romance told from a male point of view, and I thought it was a really creative way to tell the story.
The novel did stretch a bit long. When the end came, I was ready, and didn’t find myself wishing for more. That said, I finished it in under forty-eight hours, so it definitely wasn’t a slow read. I probably will end up reading the other books in the series (because I have a habit of buying box sets, and now own all of them).
I’m giving it three and half stars, because I couldn’t decide between three and four. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. If paranormal young adult books are your thing, I’d definitely recommend this one. While it’s been compared to Twilight, I’d say this book is more along the lines of The Mortal Instruments or Vampire Academy.
If you’ve read Beautiful Creatures, let me know what you think in the comments! Are the rest of The Caster Chronicles worth reading?