The book ‘Beautiful Creatures’ by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl had all the makings of a supernatural hit: mischievous magic, prophesied curses, life-changing choices, historical puzzles, and a love not meant to be. Even with all this in its arsenal, this spell fizzled out fast.
I acknowledge the bar is high for books of a magical nature. Many of us are looking to fill a Harry Potter-shaped hole in our hearts, and anything that doesn’t live up to it unfairly falls short. I can’t put my finger on any one aspect of ‘Beautiful Creatures’ that betrays its lofty goals, but throughout the entire book, I felt like I could see the strings on my suspension of disbelief.
Contrary to what the upcoming movie’s trailers might have you believe, this book is told largely from the perspective of Ethan, a Southern boy who recently lost his mother and who’s always felt out of place in his community. Enter a mysterious new girl named Lena from out of town who wears Converse (the nerve!), and though shy, she doesn’t seem to care what the proper and popular cheerleader girls think of her.
The book opens with intrigue, hooking in any lovers of paranormal activity. Ethan wakes up every morning covered in dirt, having had the same dream where a girl with black curls who smells of lemons and rosemary is falling away from him. Imagine his surprise when she shows up to the first day of school, a new girl in a town where everyone’s known everyone else since they were born.
Unfortunately, the pacing slows down after that and only recovers in fits and spikes throughout. Our heroes are in high school after all, and although Ethan feels inexorably drawn to the girl literally of his dreams, he still has to sit through second period, and third period, and lunch, and basketball practice, and please, please, can we not relive high school again for the first ¼ of the book?
The male point-of-view is refreshing in this and books like ‘Maze Runner’ and ‘Warm Bodies’ with romantic elements amongst action and adventure, but I must just be too far from the target demographic to care much about the big dance and a Sweet Sixteen party when, I don’t know, a powerful Dark Caster might be about to be unleashed upon the world.
The book’s strong points were the descriptions of fantastical characters, otherworldly happenings, and shocking sights, all from the fish-out-of-water viewpoint of a Mortal. The lore-building and descriptions of different Casters’ abilities was rich and intriguing, and always a favorite part of “power-based” science-fiction, be it ‘X-Men,’ ‘Heroes,’ or the short-lived ‘4400,’ though I fear I may have been its only fangirl.
But I couldn’t get past a few basic plot holes or grander-scale confusion. Who is the protagonist? Can it be two people, even if it’s told from one point of view? I closed the book wondering whose arc I was supposed to have been rooting for, hoping for a bit more than a very special episode of a teen drama where everyone learns a little something about themselves.
Although it’s one of my favorite genres, there’s a certain stigma unfairly attached to Young Adult — that it’s meant for only that age group, and no one older than those young scamps will be able to enjoy it. I couldn’t disagree more for most Young Adult books I read and enjoy in my thirties, but ‘Beautiful Creatures’ made me feel like I wanted these kids off my lawn.
This would probably be a good read for a high-schooler looking for some magical junk food, but if you prefer your supernatural dishes more savory and sophisticated, hold onto your appetite.