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Beautiful Creatures Paperback – September 14, 2010
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Ethan Wate is struggling to hide his apathy for his high school "in" crowd in small town Gatlin, South Carolina, until he meets the determinedly "out" Lena Duchannes, the girl of his dreams (literally--she has been in his nightmares for months). What follows is a smart, modern fantasy--a tale of star-crossed lovers and a dark, dangerous secret. Beautiful Creatures is a delicious southern Gothic that charms you from the first page, drawing you into a dark world of magic and mystery until you emerge gasping and blinking, wondering what happened to the last few hours (and how many more you're willing to give up). To tell too much of the plot would spoil the thrill of discovery, and believe me, you will want to uncover the secrets of this richly imagined dark fantasy on your own. --Daphne Durham
Amazon Exclusive Interview with Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Authors of Beautiful Creatures
What does your writing process look like? Is it tough to write a book together? Did you ever have any knock-down drag-out fights over a plot point or character trait?
Margie: The best way to describe our writing process is like a running stitch. We don't write separate chapters, or characters. We pass the draft back and forth constantly, and we actually write over each other's work, until we get to the point where we truly don't know who has written what.
Kami: By the end of the book, we don't even know. The classic example is when I said, "Marg, I really hate that line. It has to go." And she said, "Cut it. You wrote it."
Margie: I think we were friends for so long before we were writing partners that there was an unusual amount of trust from the start.
Kami: It's about respect. And it helps that we can't remember when who wrote the bad line.
Margie: We save our big fights for the important things, like the lack of ice in my house or how cold our office is. And why none of my YouTube videos are as popular as the one of Kami's three-fingered typing…okay, that one is understandable, given the page count for "Beautiful Creatures."
Kami: What can I say? I was saving the other seven fingers for the sequel.What kinds of books do you like to read?
Kami: I read almost exclusively Young Adult fiction, with some Middle Grade fiction thrown in for good measure. As a Reading Specialist, I work with children and teens in grades K-12, so basically I read what they read.
Margie: When I write it comes from the same place as when I read: wanting to hang out with fictional characters in fictional worlds. I identify more as a reader than a writer; I just have to write it first so I can read it.What books/authors have inspired you?
Kami: "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, "A Good Man is Hard to Find & Other Stories" by Flannery O'Connor, "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury and "The Witching Hour" by Anne Rice. I also love Pablo Neruda.
Margie: I think Harper Lee is the greatest writer alive today. Eudora Welty is my other Southern writer kindred; I was obsessed with her in grad school. Susan Cooper and Diana Wynne Jones made me love fantasy, and my favorite poets are Emily Dickinson (at Amherst College, I even lived on her street) and Stevie Smith.Did you set out to write fiction for young adults? Why?
Kami: We actually wrote "Beautiful Creatures" on a dare from some of the teen readers in our lives.
Margie: Not so much readers as bosses.
Kami: Looking back, we wrote it sort of like the serialized fiction of Charles Dickens, turning in pages to our teen readers every week.
Margie: And by week she means day.
Kami: When we were getting texts in the middle of the night from teens demanding more pages, we knew we had to finish.
Margie: As it says in our acknowledgements, their asking what happened next changed what happened next. Teens are so authentic. That's probably why we love YA. Even when it's fantasy, it's the emotional truth.A lot of us voracious readers like to cast a book after reading it. Did you guys have a shared view of who your characters are? Did each of you take a different character to develop, or did you share every aspect?
Kami: We've never cast our characters, but we definitely know what they look like. Sometimes we see actors in magazines and say, "Lena just wore that!"
Margie: We create all our characters together, but after a point they became as real as any of the other people we know. We forget they're not.
Kami: I never thought of it like that. I guess we do spend all our time talking about imaginary people. Margie: So long as it's not to them…Did you always plan to start the book with Ethan's story? Why?
Kami: We knew before we started that we wanted to write from a boy's point of view. Margie and I both have brothers—-six, between us-—so it wasn't a stretch. It's an interesting experience to fall in love with the guy telling the story rather than the guy the story is about.
Margie: We do kind of love Ethan, so we wanted there to be more to him than just the boy from boy meets girl.
Kami: He's the guy who stands by you at all costs and accepts you for who you are, even if you aren't quite sure who that is.What is on your nightstand now?
Kami: I have a huge stack, but here are ones at the top: "Mama Dip's Kitchen," a cookbook by Mildred Council, "The Demon's Lexicon" by Sarah Rees Brennan, "Shadowed Summer" by Saundra Mitchell, "Rampant" by Diana Peterfreund, and an Advanced Reader Copy of "Sisters Red" by Jackson Pearce.
Margie: I have Robin McKinley's "Beauty," Maggie Stiefvater's "Ballad," Kristen Cashore's "Fire," Libba Bray's "Going Bovine," and "Everything Is Fine" by AnnDee Ellis. And now I'm mad because I know a) Kami stole my "Rampant" and b) didn't tell me she has "Sisters Red"!What is your idea of comfort reading?
Kami: If given the choice, I'll always reach for a paranormal romance or an urban fantasy. I also re-read my favorite books over and over.
Margie: It's all comfort reading to me. I sleep with books in my bed. Like a dog, only without the shedding and the smelling.Have you written the next book already? What's next for Lena and Ethan?
Margie: We are revising the next book now. I don't want to give too much away, but summer in Gatlin isn't always a vacation.
Kami: I would describe book two as intense and emotional. For Ethan and Lena, the stakes are even higher.
Margie: That's true. Book two involves true love, broken hearts, the Seventeenth Moon, and cream-of-grief casseroles…
Kami: Gatlin at it's finest!--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up—Ethan Wate, a high school sophomore, plans to escape his small Southern town as soon as he can. Life has been difficult since his mother died; his father, a writer, has withdrawn into his study. Then Lena Duchannes arrives, and this strange new girl is the very one who has been occupying his dreams. She and her kin are Casters, beings who have supernatural powers. Getting to know her exposes Ethan to time travel, mortal danger, and love. The teens can hardly bear to be apart, but Lena's 16th birthday, when she will be Claimed for dark or light, is only 6 months away. To save her, they fight supernatural powers and the prejudice of closed-minded people. Yet, good and evil are not clearly delineated, nor are they necessarily at odds. In the Gothic tradition of Anne Rice, the authors evoke a dark, supernatural world in a seemingly simple town obsessed with Civil War reenactments and deeply loyal to its Confederate past. The intensity of Ethan and Lena's need to be together is palpable, the detailed descriptions create a vivid, authentic world, and the allure of this story is the power of love. The satisfying conclusion is sure to lead directly into a sequel. Give this to fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight (Little, Brown, 2005) or HBO's "True Blood" series and they will devour all 600-plus pages of this teen Gothic romance.—Amy J. Chow, The Brearley School, New York City
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The book isn't entirely perfect, though. Most of the tension in the book is artificial, as it is clear almost from the start that the authority figures around both Ethan and Lena know the entirety of the Plot (or relevant parts of it) and withhold it for whatever reason, ultimately boiling the entire climax down to a case of the actors not having enough information. This detracted a lot from the ending because I commiserated with Lena and Ethan; things would have gone a lot better if they'd had all the facts from the start.
Another thing that troubled me is that there really wasn't a real antagonist beyond the deadline that was Lena's birthday for most of the book, not because the villain wasn't a factor (everybody makes it clear that she's going to try something), but because Lena worries more about what will happen to her on her birthday than the villain trying to kill her. In fact, she'd rather die than go evil. What this meant to me is that when the black hat does show up at the end, she's been robbed of most of her impact.
The extremes of Good and Evil (capitalization is intentional) so common to the genre do show up with the requisite cliches and character pigeonholing for good guys (the Light) and Bad gusys (tge Dark). If you've seen Jedi and Sith, you know the stereotypes. I always find these extremes annoying because I believe that forcing a character to be wholly good or wholly evil is not realistic and only produces flat characters that I find difficult to connect with. This, however, doesn't detract much from this book because it's only been brought up as information for the characters thus far (and doesn't impact the story much beyond the fact that the villain is bad because she's Dark... I can live with a cardboard villain if the rest of the story's good and the bad guy's only useful for a big fight).
It bears mentioning that the showdown is fairly impressive, so other people may feel this compensates for the weak argument.
Considering all of the above, it might b odd that I give 5 stars to the book. Truth is that everything I mentioned is pretty much staple for this sort of story, and I imagine that stepping away from some of these tropes would add a level of complexity that could go beyond the scope of a teen/young adult fantasy novel. Overall the book is very well written and tells an engaging story, with two protagonists that made me care enough about them and what happens to them that I just bought the second book. Mission accomplished, I'd say.
I particularly enjoyed reading a novel from a male point of view and found Ethan to be a very delightful, albeit unreliable narrator. It was refreshing to fall in love from the boy’s perspective and I felt like the male voice was spot on. Ethan is a hopeless romantic and falls for Lena hard and fast, but part of the joy of the novel is that heady rush of first love depicted within its pages.
I was sort of burned out on paranormal worlds and the characters within them, but I was pleasantly surprised at the complexity of the Caster world and really enjoyed all of the intricate details woven throughout the story. The novel has a wonderful historical background that grounds the magical properties to real life and I loved how seamlessly the two were written together. Setting plays a huge role in this book and the deep South and its cast of crazy townspeople kept me interested.
Although it’s not a short book, clocking in at 563 pages, it does move fast. Every chapter ends on a bit of suspense that left me turning pages to find out what happened next. I ended up enjoying it so much that I went looking for a sequel, and found that there are actually three more large books (plus a spinoff) in the series. I’ll definitely be reading on to find out the fate of Lena and Ethan.
This isn't a bad thing, and for me the setting gave this book a unique touch - I can't remember the last book I read set in the south. I also liked that it was told from Ethan's point of view. I will say, I saw the movie first, not realizing this was a book. The movie, despite having a few big name actors, was pretty lame. But I liked the premise, and I'm glad I read the book - there is SO MUCH more going on than the movie shows. The depth of the life of Casters (the people with magic powers) is very interesting, and I'm sure there's more to learn in the next book.
I was left with one burning question at the end, which I hope will be revealed at some point in the series, otherwise I think I'll be left feeling like they forgot part of the plot. At times I also felt like Ethan - who is new to the idea of magic - wasn't asking the right questions to reveal elements to the reader. But I'm intrigued enough to pursue the rest of the series. The only reason I didn't rate it higher was because I'm not the target audience and I feel like if I was 16 or so, I might have done less eye rolling at the stereotypical "teens who are deeply in love forever" moments. I definitely recommend for teens, and anyone else who enjoys YA paranormal romance.