Tuesday Book Review
I’m never sure whether I should immerse myself in young adult fiction–especially contemporary fantasy–or avoid it while I’m writing. Since I’m between novels right now, it seemed safe to read this one, and I’m glad I did.
Beautiful Creatures is a whopping 563 pages of incredible setting and genius point-of-view storytelling. I finished the book a week ago and still can’t get over how well the small South Carolina town came through. The setting in Beautiful Creatures was a character on its own. The first sentence really gets this point across: “There were only two kinds of people in our town. ‘The stupid and the stuck,’ my father had affectionately classified our neighbors.” The fictional town of Gatlin comes alive through the people who live there, the weather (which Lena, the heroine, unwittingly changes with her moods), the physical mapping of the town, and through its history, linked forever to the Civil War (or, as many townsfolk call it, “The War of Northern Aggression”).
As a writer, I learned mostly from the setting, but also through the characterization. Macon Ravenwood is my favorite character in the book. Best quote: “I loathe towns. I loathe townspeople. They have small minds and giant backsides. Which is to say, what they lack in interiors they make up in posteriors” (p. 124). Hilarious. I bet the authors had a blast coming up with the dialogue.
The story is told from the point of view of Ethan Wate, the typical guy-obsessed-with-the-new-girl, Lena Duchannes. In the beginning I was reminded of the narrator of The Virgin Suicides–someone obsessed, always watching the girls, a little creepiness before the tragedy in which he really has no part. Instead, Ethan takes an active role. Selecting him as the POV character was a stroke of genius by the authors, because Lena, who the story actually seems to be about, is obnoxious throughout the whole book. She’s waiting for her sixteenth birthday, when fate is supposed to decide whether or not she will be a good witch or a bad witch. (By the way: ticking clock of approaching birthday–great method of keeping suspense up even when nothing exciting is happening.) This makes her whiny and moody, something with which I have no personal experience.
It’s late. Bottom line: Nebula Stamp of Approval.