Review: Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Review: Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1) by Kami Garcia and Margaret StohlBeautiful Creatures by Kami GarciaMargaret Stohl
Series: The Caster Chronicles #1
Published by Hachette Digital, Inc. on 2013-01-08
Pages: 592
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There were no surprises in Gatlin County. We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.At least, that's what I thought.Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.There was a curse.There was a girl.And in the end, there was a grave.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.

I know I’m behind the times with this one since this book has been out for ages and has been receiving all sorts of buzz since then (including the movie earlier in the year).

Have you ever read a book and thought, “Man, I should have written that!”? This was that book for me despite the modicum of shame associated with a late-20-something woman jockeying to get one of the two copies of this book from the YA section of the public library. I even invented an imaginary younger sister just so I could say I was getting the book for her. But, Adult YA shame is another post, I fear. In short, I loved this book and it’s everything that I expect for my own fiction writing.

I’ll also say that I’m normally one of those people who stops reading halfway through to look up spoilers because I can’t stand not knowing what happens. I didn’t do that here. I needed to be surprised and experience things as Ethan did. I consider that a major accomplishment for Garcia and Stohl.

‘Beautiful Creatures’ brilliantly portrays a Gothic south. I’m from a small Midwestern town and can totally relate to the small town mentality of Gatlin. Ethan’s desperation to leave and experience the world is natural and actually happens to teens who live in small towns all across the country. I was one of them. Sometimes I thought time would stop altogether before I got old enough to leave so in that regard, I could really identify with Ethan. Plus, I could totally feel the slow pace associated with the Deep South. This book was vivid enough for me to see the sights, smell the smells, and really experience the place.

Also, I loved that the main character was a boy. Most YA that I read tends to be very female centered (not that it’s a problem!) and it was refreshing to see things through a boy’s perspective. Plus, I loved that he had to think about his basketball playbook so Lena couldn’t detect what he was really thinking about. What a brilliant attention to detail.

More importantly, the storyline didn’t feel contrived. Sometimes when magic is inserted into a book that knows the intimate details of a real place, it doesn’t feel real. In Gatlin, those with magic have always been around to those who knew where to look. It reminded me of Harry Potter and how the muggles were totally clueless to the wizarding world.

Just as important were the relationships in the book. My friend Lisa, who runs Read.Breathe.Relax, talks about something called “insta-love,” where characters just instantly fall in love for no reason and without a lot of character development. Ethan and Lena did not have insta-love. They had a natural connection established early in the book but it didn’t automatically equal love. Their relationship evolved very organically and didn’t feel forced or rushed … though sometimes I was annoyed at Lena’s insistence on pushing Ethan away. Though I think that was because I liked Ethan so much that I thought she was crazy for wanting anything other than a relationship. What I especially loved was the development of the minor characters. Amma and Link’s relationship with Ethan felt just as real as Lena’s relationship with him.

The evil felt evil. The good felt good. And I especially felt the struggle to define both concepts. What is evil? What is good? Why do we have to choose? Surely everyone has both in them. That’s a theme that Lena embodies fully and I’m excited to learn more.

Overall, I think readers (of all ages!) will find ‘Beautiful Creatures’ to be an intriguing and exciting read. I was captivated with the setting and the detailed characters. I’m also anxious to read the next book to find out more about some of the mysteries (no spoilers!). Especially the mystery surrounding Ethan’s mom.

P.S. I saw the movie. I’m not a zealot who thinks that everything in the book has to be in the movie. They’re two different mediums and need different things to be successful. But even I didn’t like the way they treated this adaptation. The actors were exactly as I pictured them in the book and did a good enough job with what they had to work with. They weren’t the problem. It was the story adaptation. At some points, it didn’t make sense and was poorly written.

 

five-stars

© 2013 – 2016, Jessica Workman Holland. All rights reserved.

  • I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I read the book earlier this year. Someone brought it to the staff book exchange at work and was like “I know it’s YA, but it’s super good!” That was enough to get me to read it. Some parts felt a little cheesy in a 90s movie kind of way, but it was a fun read. Not sure that I’ll bother with the sequels though.

    • Jessica

      Oh man, I’m totally hooked. I see what you mean about the cheesy 90s movie thing, but I about died of joy when Felicity and Dawson’s Creek showed up on the Netflix Instant Queue so apparently I’m ok with that. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!