Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Published by Little, Brown, and Company, 2009
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 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 remember the blog world blowing up with reviews of this book when it first came out in 2009...but I never got around to reading it. With the movie coming out in a couple of weeks I decided to rectify that. I bought a copy of this at a book sale for a dollar last year (a dollar! for a hardcover! in great shape!) so I just had to located it in one of the many possible book piles, once that was done I settled in.
Ethan Wate is our narrator (which I was not expecting but found to be enjoyable) and he is counting down until he can leave the small town of Gatlin. Gatlin is one of those small towns where families have lived for generations, everyone knows everyone (and their business) and few people ever leave. Or move in. So when a new girl arrives, especially one who moves in with the local shut-in, Macon Ravenwood, in a house that is commonly believed to be haunted, it is a big deal.
Lena Duchannes is not what Ethan Wate was expecting, not only because she dresses very differently from all of the local girls, but because she is the girl of his dreams...literally. Ethan has experienced disturbing dreams for years, waking up muddy, sweaty, with twigs in his bed...with no idea how such a thing is possible. His mother died a year ago, his father shuts himself in his study and has withdrawn almost completely from Ethan's life, and his Amma is superstitious and knows more than she shares. So when Ethan discovers that he and Lena share dreams and can speak telepathically, he is determined to become a part of her life.
Lena is an interesting character. She has moved around (a lot), she has a charm necklace that is filled with physical representations of her memories, writes poetry in a spiral notebook that she shares with no-one, and has a countdown to her sixteenth birthday on her hand. Lena is a Caster and on her sixteenth birthday she will be claimed for the Light or the Dark...however, there is a curse on her family so unlike most Casters, the choice is not hers and she has no idea which side will claim her.
Lena is also struggling to control her powers...when she is made a target at her high school this control becomes more difficult to maintain. Incidents arise that make her all the more isolated from her peers. Except for Ethan who crosses lines to support her although at times I wondered why he bothered as Lena never seemed very appreciative. She was so used to being alone that having Ethan's support was uncomfortable and she tried to sabotage it until she finally became convinced that he wasn't going anywhere.
There is a lot going on in this book including finding a cameo that throws Ethan and Lena into visions of past events that shed light on the curse currently surrounding Lena's family, a modern day witch hunt led by longtime residents of Gatlin, a mysterious difficult relationship between Lena's Uncle Maven and Ethan's Amma, Lena's cousin Ridley who was claimed a year before coming back to wreck havoc, and more. This was definitely needed as the book weighs in at almost 600 pages. The majority of the plot(s) move at a good clip, with just a few instances where the story drags just a bit. The ending, however, was action (and emotion) packed and definitely had me looking for the second book ASAP!
Oh, and just a quick shout out to my favorite character who will hopefully continue to provide some much needed levity--Link!
This book rates a 3.5/5.
This book is a part of my personal collection and was purchased with my own funds ($1!!).