Right, so I promised to have more reviews up for you this week and I swear it shall be done. I swear it shall be done before BEA because heaven knows I’ll probably have a gazillion more books to review after having read all the ARCs I’ve stolen from my coworkers. (Muahahaha. Oh the perks of working in publishing.)
A while back on one of the various social media platforms I have (really, I’m starting to reach saturation point with social media) I said I wanted to be haunted by a book. Until I read BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, I hadn’t been.
Ethan Wate wants nothing more than to get out of his small town, to leave Gatlin, the South, and what he perceives as his tiny way of life. He wants nothing more than to be able to experience the outside world. One day, the outside world intrudes on Gatlin in a spectacular way in the form of Lena Duchannes, the dark haired and green eyed niece of the town shut-in, Old Man Ravenwood.
(Can you see how deliciously gothic the book is already?)
Lena is certainly different, but little does Ethan know just how different she (and her family) really is…
I can’t quite explain it, but there’s something old-fashioned about BEAUTIFUL CREATURES. When I say “old-fashioned”, I mean it somehow reminds me of the YA I read as a child, which was full of past lives and ghosts and throughout-time parallels: fantastic happenings that stretched credulity, but were nevertheless wonderfully imaginative.
It’s funny, because I tend to hold my YA to a slightly different standard these days than when I did as a child and BEAUTIFUL CREATURES doesn’t quite hold up. And yet. AND YET. There is an “out-of-time” and insular quality about this work that’s shivery and seductive. This is not a real place, not as I know it. This is Southern Gothic. This is the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland.
The original Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square, thank you. None of this Dutch Gothic Revival nonsense in Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square. (Yes, yes, I’m a Disneyland freak. Speaking of, I haven’t been recently. I am due for another visit.)
If I sound pejorative when I compare it to the Haunted Mansion, I don’t mean to. What I mean is that BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is a fantasy place, somewhere I can go that has no bearing to this notion of “reality” or “the real world”. It’s not gritty and urban the way Holly Black’s TITHE is. BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is, quite simply put, fantastical.
It’s not perfect, but gothic novels wouldn’t be truly gothic, haunting, and creepy without some serious flaws. Lena and Ethan are more cipher than girl and boy at this point to me, the racial/feminist relations are kind of problematic, and the book is long and unwieldy. And yet. AND YET. I love the length because of its atmosphere and I kind of love that Lena and Ethan are slight caricatures. It serves the overall story somehow. The racial/feminist tension is still troubling, but it lends itself to the “out of time” feeling.
This book hooks itself into your subconscious in the very best ways, and for that I highly recommend it.