I don’t get enough time to read to do a regular Friday feature that talks about the books I’ve been reading, but on my drive up to Susan’s yesterday, I finished listening to Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, which I had in enhanced audio from the library. I’ve been mentioning this book for the last few weeks (it takes me a while to get through an audiobook–my normal commute is only like 5 minutes) and now that I’m finished I wanted to talk about the many things I really loved about it.
I’d seen Beautiful Creatures floating around the blogosphere but never actually clicked on the book to see what it was about (Mistake #1). With a name like that, I assumed it was something along the lines of Pretty Little Liars, which is not my cuppa tea. But anyway, it was put on my radar about a month ago and I nabbed it in audio from the library. As I said, it was “enhanced audio”, the first audio book I’ve listened to that fits that category, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As it happens, there are lots of fun background noises and stuff AND a song that features in the story specially written, sung, and integrated. This in itself was really cool because songs in books rarely work well on paper (as Susan is prone to reminding me–there was an incident in one of my early books that had the heroine singing for a bagel–I think it scarred her and I’ve never lived it down), which is sad because we just watched Once More With Feeling again last night and it made me want life to be a musical again–except without the dancing until you burn part.
Anyway, the story: Y’all know I always love stuff that’s new and inventive. This was AWESOME. I’ve read (and not finished) so much stuff about witches in the last year or so. I’m TIIIIIIRED of the same old same old, always following the classic tenets of Wicca or other forms of magic. Beautiful Creatures is different. Beautiful Creatures is about Casters, which are a type of witch but felt really different. Each Caster specializes in some type of magic that’s different, that feel a little like super powers at at times. And they’re differrent. It definitely wasn’t something I felt like I’d read before.
Okay here’s the blurb:
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
Bonus number 2: This book is set in Gatlin, South Carolina, which may be the BEST small town South setting I have EVER READ. Garcia and Stohl just absolutely nail the tone and the charm and the ridiculous of living in a small town in the south (how, I have no idea, as it appears they are in California and DC respectively, but perhaps they weren’t always). They even nailed how we are about the Civil War (aka The War Between The States, or if you’re over 70, The War of Northern Aggression). The whole thing has this marvelous Southern Gothic feel that I just loved. And it helped that the guy narrating Ethan did a passable Southern accent that didn’t make me want to grind my teeth.
Bonus number 3: A FULL CAST of really cool and interesting characters. This whole book is FULL of characters in the best sense of the word. Amma. Uncle Macon. Ethan and Lena. Boo Radley (the dog–you know I love it when there are pets as real characters). Ethan’s crazy great aunts, The Sisters. Characterization was marvelous and I really felt like everybody was well rounded.
Beautiful Creatures has a story within a story, one of those echoes from the past that’s still having effects on the future. The events that took place in Gatlin during the Civil War are absolutely still playing out in the current day story, and the crossing back and forth between the two via a series of visions experienced by Ethan and Lena are really interesting and well done and absolutely add this interesting mystery and layer of urgency to the story in a way that journal entries or other more common forms of flashback would have.
Overall, I gave this full marks and call it a must read for any lover of YA paranormal. I’ve got Beautiful Darkness queued up for the drive home next week.