We have read three books about witches for the blog. I think that I’ve liked them all, but Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl has definitely been my favorite (even though they are pretty pointedly called casters not witches). The novel is told from sixteen-year-old southerner Ethan’s perspective.
Ethan has lived in Gatlin, South Carolina his entire life. Despite having a recently deceased academic mother, voodoo practicing and tarot card reading housekeeper and reclusive father, Ethan seems to have fit in to a certain extent – he is a star basketball player and is accepted by his peers as “one of them.” A large part of this is that his family is ensconced in Gatlin history, with roots that go back beyond the Civil War or as they call it in Gatlin “War of Northern Aggression”.
All this changes when the literal girl of Ethan’s dreams transfers to Gatlin High (the first new girl the class has ever had). Lena is a caster but doesn’t understand her the full extent of her power. What she does know is that on her sixteenth birthday her magic will be claimed either for the light or dark, and that she won’t have any say in the matter.
Over the next 500 pages they discover a shared history, a magical world that neither of them could have imagine, and perhaps most importantly their feelings for each other. I’ve heard it described as a paranormal love story and a teen gothic romance and find both of descriptions accurate.
I found the story instantly engaging. I enjoyed reading a teen romance from a male perspective. Ethan, Lena, and the large chorus of colorful side characters are both multidimensional and steeped in both history and the southern setting (although I will admit the accents can be a bit much at times!).
Lena’s desire to fit in both in high school and the magic world, but her refusal to give up the aspects of her personality which make this impossible seemed to me to be a well crafted parallel to what it means to grow up. As they wait to find out if she will turn light or dark, the real quest is to discover that not everything is black and white. This is a lesson that I am still trying to learn. Constant struggle.
While, I’m not saying this is a perfect book by any means – the depiction of the town and the status quo high school students is clichéd, I didn’t find it believable that Ethan had fit in before, and the flashbacks were overused and not my favorite – I thoroughly enjoyed reading Beautiful Creatures. I am definitely looking forward to seeing the film out in theaters on Valentines Day and reading the next books in the series.
Also sorry this post is so long, I guess I had a lot of feelings.