Beautiful Creatures | Book Review
Release date: December 1, 2009
Series: Caster Chronicles (Book #1)
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Romance
So many book series on my to-read list and I apparently completely missed this one when it came out. I read some mixed reviews, but inspired by the fact that the movie based on this book was coming out, I decided to give it a try. And look: it's not a dystopian novel! Overall, there were parts of this book that I really enjoyed, but other parts I didn't care much for. I will probably finish the series at some point later this year, but for now I'm putting them away.
The story takes place in Gatlin - a small town in South Carolina where, according to the main character's father, only two kinds of people live: "The stupid and the stuck." Ethan is a 16 year old high school student, who has been having weird reoccurring dreams involving a mysterious girl he has never met. His life changes when the girl from his dreams, Lena, appears at his school. What Ethan doesn't know is that Lena is a powerful Caster with a complicated family. Of course, nothing can stop the two from falling for each other and as the situation gets more complicated they try to stay together. It's not all cheesy romance though: Lena has bigger problems on her mind. Because of a curse brought on by her ancestor she is about to face a Claiming for Darkness or Light - something that could completely change her forever.
The first thing that got me really excited when I started reading the book is that it was told from a guy's perspective. Let's face it: this doesn't happen too often in YA books (or I've just been picking the "wrong" books). Unfortunately, the more I read the less I was convinced that this was actually a male. I get it, everyone loves a sensitive guy and Ethan is meant to appeal to the female audience, but this was a whole different level of sensitive. It was hard for me to even picture this guy. The characters I did love were, well, pretty much everyone else: from Lena's supernatural family to people close to Ethan to the annoying town folk - I wanted to know more about most of them. It's not even that Ethan didn't interest me as a character - I just kept wishing he would, for lack of a better wording, snap out of it.
The majority of the book actually felt like a long-winded setup for the rest of the events that probably take place in the other three books. And when I say long-winded I really mean it: Beautiful Creatures is about 560 pages long. This "setup mode" is probably the reason it took me a while to get through the novel and it's not that I wasn't interested - I just kept wishing something big would happen already (and it does, but not until about the last 100-150 pages). Funny thing, people were asking me "So, how's the book? Do you like it?" and the only response I had was something like "You know... I'm about 200 pages in and I'm not sure..." I knew I didn't hate it or anything, I knew I cared about the characters and how it all was going to end, but I found it easy to put this book down for something else. Is there such a thing as background reading? Because I think if I listened to this as an audiobook instead, that's exactly what it would have been: a pleasant background to which I would pay just enough attention to keep up with the story, but ultimately be busy with other things.
OK, that sounded horrible. I really didn't dislike it as much, I promise. I just feel like in order for me to really tell whether or not this is worth reading, I would have to read the rest of the series. If the point of the first book was to keep me reading I can't say that it really worked, at least not on the "top of my to-read list" level.
What I did like was that, even though this is a pretty typical paranormal teen romance at its core, this book was not nearly as cliche as it could have been. I liked that the characters actually had interests other than their undying love for each other, they cared about things bigger than than themselves. Not Harry Potter big, but definitely closer to it than the Twilight series.
I think paranormal romance fans love this book with good reason and if you're one of them an still haven't read Beautiful Creatures you should definitely check it out. Just don't expect the story to be flashing before your eyes - the authors took their time to get it going. As for me - I'm giving it an "OK" for now, since I do feel like after reading over 560 pages I should be left with a better impression than "this might make more sense if I read the next book..."
What about you guys? I've read some rave reviews and also some disappointed ones, but not much in the middle ground. What did you think?