Beautiful Creatures – Review


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.


I know a lot of people rave about this book and I was very hopeful going in, but I have to say I was very disappointed.

There is no denying that Beautiful Creatures has oodles of southern charm. The authors weave a wonderful portrait of the ups and downs of living in a small town in the south, and without question the town and the colorful people who live in it are the best part of this book. The mailman who reads everyone’s mail – and everyone knows it. The DAR ladies. The inevitable Civil War reenactment. The near lynching. All of it was wonderful and beautifully evoked, it just wasn’t enough to save this book from itself.

And now it’s time for the inevitable Twilight comparison – yes, it’s a Gothic romance, two people who feel they *belong* togther; yes, it’s about a  secret supernatural world hidden within a small town. The problem is, if you have a whole story built around a romance, the romance needs to be great. And frankly, the couple – Lena and Ethan – never really did anything for me. I didn’t mind them holding hands and being cute, I just didn’t feel or believe their relationship. At least Twilight’s Edward and Bella had palpable chemistry. Why Lena and Ethan fell in love, I really couldn’t say – they basically looked at each other and that’s it, insta-love. There was no visceral pull, no sense of characters who mesh or compliment each other, no chemistry – there wasn’t much personality at all, to be honest.  The book danced around a reincarnation idea, and if that’s what they were going for maybe I’d be a little more forgiving of the insta-love, but my problem still remains the same: I didn’t see or feel the attraction, let alone believe it was an epic romance.

But even more than the lacking romance, my greatest source of frustration with this book is the ending. The whole book is essentially a countdown to Lena’s birthday, when a big event is going to decide her fate, a good vs. evil showdown. I was willing to wait out the slow, meandering route the story took towards the finale, assuming that all this build up would lead to something worth the wait. And in the end, when the clock hit zero? Nothing happened. It was a cheat – basically they avoided the whole issue and re-set the clock for another year. There was one death, that’s it. No story resolution, no defining character moment, really no pay-off whatsoever. Not to mention the circumstances of that one death are completely ridiculous. The same spell that brought a curse down on an entire family, the spell that had doomed Lena and her entire family – she just blithely recasts it, without thinking twice, and somehow this time, miraculously, the spell just causes one  death, as opposed to dooming the fate of an entire family for all future generations. At this point I was ready to throw the book across the room. And unfortunately once you reach the end of the book, you realize there really is no mystery. All the things Lena and Ethan had to figure out, they were basically just the things the adults knew and decided not to tell them, for no good reason whatsoever. It made no sense. So the whole book was a countdown to nothing, and the mystery sputtered, collapsed and really didn’t need to exist in the first place. It all just felt so contrived.

So while I did love the southern ambiance, I just can’t forgive this book for jerking me around. I might have been able to put up with it if the romance had been amazing, but it wasn’t. There was definitely potential here, in the flavor and writing style, but the story itself fell short. Maybe I’ll come back to these authors in their next series and try again, but it’s going to take me a while to get over my frustration with this book.

Byrt Grade: B-

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

The Book Smugglers say:

Thea: I’m torn when it comes to Beautiful Creatures. I started the book with high hopes, ready to immerse myself in a southern gothic – and it was a kind of uneven experience. I found myself enthralled at parts of the story, but skeptical and disengaged for large chunks of the novel. I liked the idea of Beautiful Creatures, but the execution was somewhat lacking. Still, the atmospheric nature of the novel and intriguing premise made it a worthwhile – albeit slightly disappointing – read.

Ana: I experienced a wide range of emotions while reading Beautiful Creatures. I started out extremely excited, with high expectations given the amount of universal praise it received ( I even thought it could make my top 10 of 2009) but as soon as I started to read I felt an overwhelming feeling of annoyance which I believe, came from recognition – where did I read this plot before? It didn’t last long though, as the story proved to be quite original. I then proceeded to alternate between being mildly bored and extremely intrigued. I really liked the mystery and the setting but at the same time I did not connect with the characters. Such fluctuation in my reading experience, is I believe, a reflection of an uneven book with both good and …not so good points.

Persnickity Snark says:

While the starstruck teen lovers, Lena and Ethan, delve into their families histories, they also fall in love. There is definite sparkage and roadblocks to keep the reader turning the pages, though I would have liked to have seen more development of why they were attracted to one another outside the realm of paranormal activity. Lena’s into Ethan because he’s cute, he’s genuinely nice (but not in a sucky way), open-minded, morally strong and offers her a chance as a “normal” teen experience. Ethan’s attraction to Lena is a little less definite – she’s gorgeous and different but personality wise I would have liked to see something more but this could be due to the story being from Ethan’s perspective. But this is a relatively minor quibble, the characters on the whole are a fantastic bunch of loonies, eccentrics, louts and plain bizarros but every single one of them in grounded in truth…It’s an impressive debut effort and I can’t wait to read what these two ladies come up with next. What I will take away more though, other than Ethan and Lena’s love story, is a crush on the South.

The New York Public library blog says:

Garcia and Stohl have created an intricate and compelling story. Even at over 500 pages (hardcover),  this book is a page-turner. Ethan’s narration is honest and captures both the charm and horror of life in a rural Southern town. Beautiful Creatures is also an utterly original and unforgettable book filled with haunting characters, excitement, and even some romance.