by Kami Garcia
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
December 1st 2009
by Little, Brown and Company
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. -from Goodreads
I just finished this book, and then promptly threw it across the room. I am not being hyperbolic. I THREW IT ACROSS THE ROOM.
Let me be clear, I love long books. 600 pages? BRING IT.
I love stories set in small southern towns. Probably because I've never been to one. My friend Ana says she has cousins in North Carolina and there is nothing to be obsessed about. I reserve the right to disbelieve this.
And lastly, I love fantasy. I love witches. Ahem, Casters. I love all of it. I even (and if you repeat this anywhere I will fervently deny it) love cliche teen paranormal romances. I am a fan of the Twilight series, for crying out loud.
So please, tell me, WHY didn't I like this book? I really, really wanted to. I really want to go see the movie on Thursday and fangirl like there is no tomorrow.
There isn't anything wrong with the writing. The writing is not bad. Aside from some overusage of certain words and terms, characters calling out each other's names too often, it was not bad.
The plot was dense. This is atypical of stories like this, but stuff happened. Lots of stuff. In fact, I am pretty sure some stuff happened that I am not even aware of. I like how much time the narrative covered, also atypical. My preference in books is to be taken along for the ride the entire way through, no time skippage. I want to know when the characters do the dishes and mow the lawn. I am very unusual in this. Beautiful Creatures doesn't really do this. There is a lot of secondhand retelling being done, which brings me to the narration.
Ethan Wate seems like a nice kid, albeit dry of personality, and while I liked that his family problems and basketball playing and dreams of travel are a part of his background, once Lena shows up he becomes just another Bella Swan. He doesn't spend a lot of time doing, thinking, or talking about anything that isn't Lena. He is a male protagonist who could fail a reverse Bechdel test. I think this is the root of many of my problems with this book. I think it is a novel idea to write a romance from a male perspective, maybe to normalize sensitive male characters, but if anything this example shows how flat such characters can be.
I hate to keep drawing Twilight comparisons, but hoo boy does Lena Duchannes have some serious Edward Cullen parallels. Readers also don't get a good reading of her personality either, possibly because of the lack of dialogue. And while I will agree that 15 year old girls really do get into poetry, it just seemed so hackneyed. I didn't dislike Lena, I just didn't feel anything toward her.
Let's not even get me started with Ridley and the stereotypical slutty bad girl trope. I did like Macon and Boo Radley. Marian Ashcroft was, of course, my favorite character. Everyone else? Big blank.
I want to be clear that I didn't hate this book. I just felt like it had all of the right parts and pieces to be something really great, and just, didn't. It didn't have any soul? No heart. Just lots of high stakes and doom and unexplained fantastical elements. If it were about 300 pages shorter it might have been a really engrossing read.
I'm giving it three stars because I feel any less would be uncharitable, and it's not a bad book. Just one of which I will not be reading the sequels.
Edit: NOPE. Can't do it. Two stars.
2/20: Saw the movie on Galentine's Day with my gurls. I was that loud huffy girl in the back, completely outraged at how bad it was. PLEASE LET'S DISCUSS.
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Labels: 2 stars, Review, southern, YA