Summary from Goodreads:
There were no surprises in Gatlin County.
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.
At least, that’s what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.
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 that 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.
Sixteen Moons haunts “Beautiful Creatures” and its main character Ethan. A mysterious melody that continually finds its way on Ethan’s playlist. Ethan hears the soft plucking of strings when no one else does. The song is a coming storm. “Beautiful Creatures” haunted me as Sixteen Moons did Ethan. There was a slow boil building from page one. Dread. Fate. Forbidden love. And you know what, aside from some cliche high school dialogue, the novel had a maturity about it that many young adult novels aspire for.
The novel has some wonderful beats it hits. Action. Melodrama. Sentiment. The pacing has rhythm and at no time did I feel the story rushed to its conclusion, the authors built the stakes up and had me rooting for the two main characters, Lena and Ethan.
In every story the female protagonist is in a balcony, crying out for a hero to scale her long tresses and slay the dragon. The hero is the dashing knight or wizard with so much power. The easiest way to turn the story on its head is to give the protagonists foibles, make them weak so they have to rise above the personality flaws. What “Beautiful Creatures” does is twist things further, at least for a romantic teen fantasy. The hero, the boy, is a normal and the female is the heavyweight with crippling power. Throw in a fate-changing birthday, crazy magic wielding families and a old fashion southern town with a secret past, you have an interesting mix.
What I feel makes “Beautiful Creatures” different from other young adult novels (I’m looking at you Twilight!) is the strength of these two protagonists. Lena is a powerful witch with the potential to strangle the world. Of course her powers and witchyness do ostracize her from her peers at high school and that only makes her strive for a normal life even more (that is something of an old hat in these type of novels). Her boyfriend Ethan is a normal. Albeit he has his own power. His strength lies in his ability to shrug off his high school peers, go against the convention of witch hunting southern bells (the town moms wanting to burn Lena), and stand up to them when they stand united in their hatred for the new girl, Lena. Ethan loves Lena and because of that, he gives Lena strength to withstand the stares and jeers of his former friends and fight against her seemingly unavoidable fate. Both protagonists draw strength from each other.
Many of the other supporting characters are merely window dressing, with little substance. Amma (Ethan’s surrogate grandmother-type) and Macon (Lena’s secretive and southern-cool uncle) are the only two characters that stand out. Both are shrouded in so much mystery that readers desire more reveals, the authors did right by bringing those characters to the forefront once and awhile. Ethan’s best friend Link shows promise, his humor and honesty are sparks of freshness among characters that take the novel’s events very seriously. But the story is about Ethan and Lena’s Romeo-Juliet struggle between two very different worlds and how they can stay together despite the usual obstacles. If anything, the typical obstacles are ho-hum and derivative. One of the novels weaker points. While we’re on characters, there is one more weak point–in my opinion–and that is the lack of stand-out villain. There is a villain but that person’s motives are shrouded and so is he/she, to the point that I forgot about them.
I wish I could comment on the setting’s accuracy because I don’t know much about the south, that includes its culture and history. However, the authors do well capturing the south as a place stuck at a particular place in its history, constantly reminiscing, wanting to rewrite its most humiliating moments, reliving its best days. “Gone with the Wind” is on every television in every household in “Beautiful Creatures” and everyone wants to be Scarlet O’Hara, gowns and grand balls and all.
All in all, this novel is step above must young adult romance fantasies. A mysterious girl with great supernatural powers. An average boy who seeks to escape his mundane life. Throw boy and girl together with a generational curse and a birthday-changing fate, you get “Beautiful Creatures” by Garcia and Stohl. A supernatural romance with enough originality to keep the pages turning. “Beautiful Creatures” manages to create an interesting mythology, at least the first book in this series has the beginnings of something rich and maybe unique. Time and sequels will tell.