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Cue Up the Skynyrd

Posh reviews Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, which needs more killer (side characters) and less filler (pages).

Cue Up the Skynyrd

BOOK REPORT for Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles 1) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Slow Southern Drawl
Bonus Factors: Tasty Business, The Sisters, Alcoholic Voodoo, Civil War Reenactments
Relationship Status: History Fair Partner

The Deal:

Before I start this review, I have to say something.

FREEEEBIIIIIIIRD!!!!!

If you've never gone to a concert below the Mason-Dixon Line, that probably doesn't make sense to you, but just consider it a way for this Southern girl to unleash a little bit of her (non-Confederate-related) country pride, which is currently boiling over thanks to Beautiful Creatures. Now, that might seem ironic once I explain that this book focuses on the ignorance and prejudice of people in a tiny town called Gatlin, but trust me when I say that Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl do a fabulous job of exposing the poisonous nature of small minds while highlighting the joys of small town living.

See, Ethan Wate has spent his entire life in Gatlin, but unlike his ancestors before him, he can't WAIT to get out. Sure, he loves Amma, the housekeeper who takes care of him, and he likes playing basketball and making fun of his best friend Link's absolutely terrible band. But nothing ever changes in Gatlin-- nothing except the fact that his mother is dead and his father now lives entirely in his home office. And with his mother's passing came the nightmares, dark visions that always begin with a mysterious girl and end with Ethan losing her to black emptiness. You can then imagine Ethan's major freakage when he realizes that Lena Duchannes, the beautiful newcomer to town, is his dream girl (literally AND figuratively). Lena lives in the stately decay of Ravenwood Manor with her uncle Macon, the town hermit, and this eccentric background, not to mention her boho chic fashion sense, instantly draws suspicion from her redneck classmates and their DAR mothers. But what repels the townspeople only draws Ethan closer, and when strange, unexplainable things begin to happen, Lena and Ethan find themselves in a desperate search to save their future by solving their past.

BFF Charm: Yay

Ethan's a really great guy, ESP. when you consider that he's a teenage boy. He's sweet and sensitive without being a weenie, although I did find myself occasionally wishing he was a little more rough around the edges. I would also totes be friends with Lena for the simple reason that if I went to school in Gatlin, I'd be similarly ostracized, although it would have less to do with my fashion (I pretty much tried to blend in during HS by losing myself in baggy t-shirts) and more to do with the fact that I refer to the "war between the states" as the Civil War. But to be honest, Lena and Ethan's bff potential vastly pales in comparison to the FAR more awesome pair of Amma, the voodoo-ing, crossword-solving, comfort food cooking housekeeper, and Marian, the eccentric town librarian. These two ladies kick so much ass, they deserve their own spin-off series.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

The explanation behind Ethan and Lena's connection (I won't spoil it for you) is indeed romantic, but it didn't really bring on the tingles for me. And I think that's due to the main problem I have with this novel: the story is fantastic, but the main characters are, well, kinda boring. To use a Southern metaphor, it's like Garcia and Stohl added so much Tony Chachere's to the side characters that, by the time they got around to Ethan and Lena, there was no spice left at all. And when I consider my patterns with Southern food, this makes sense-- I ALWAYS love the sides more than the entree. I mean, why fill up on pork chops when you could have more mac & cheese? So that's exactly why I found myself skimming the "serious" moments between the hero and heroine just so I could get back to sinking my teeth into the good stuff.

Talky Talk: Slow Southern Drawl

Told from Ethan's perspective, the narration is pretty forward. I always enjoy a male POV, although I think Ethan's young voice lightens the Southern gothic tone, which is a shame cos I like that shizz like I like my sausage gravy: LAID ON THICK. Speaking of, there are some pretty heavy accents going on in the dialogue, which sound (in my head) authentic but do get a little old after awhile.

Bonus Factor: Tasty Business

As I'm sure you've guessed by now, THERE IS SO MUCH DELICIOUS SOUTHERN FOOD UP IN HERE. Amma's a fantastic cook, and I can barely handle my jealousy of Ethan, who gets to eat fresh-made biscuits and fried chicken like EVERY SINGLE DAY. Even worse, sometimes he COMPLAINS ABOUT IT. Boy DON'T MAKE ME SLAP YOU UPSIDE THE HEAD.

Bonus Factor: The Sisters

Ethan has three super old great-aunts who all live together: Mercy, Grace Ann and Prudence Jane. Based on that one sentence, I'm sure you can already tell that they are AWESOME, but I'll keep going. They collect state spoons, but only for eleven states (guess which ones). They have a Yorkshire Terrier named Harlon James (after one of their late husbands). They believe that there is no greater sin in the world than keeping recipes to yrself. In other words, they are totally my role models for old age.

Bonus Factor: Alcoholic Voodoo

This bonus factor is basically, like, two sentences in the book, but they are the BEST TWO LINES OF THE ENTIRE STORY. Because guess how Amma calls out to old spirits? She grabs a bottle of Wild Turkey and POURS ONE OUT. I AM NOT JOKING. That is some seriously genius magic, cos you know that if I was a ghost, I wouldn't show up for some crystal ball shizz, but one drop of bourbon and I'M THERE.

Bonus Factor: Civil War Reenactment

I think this may be the first YA book ever to feature this bonus factor. To which I respond, THANK YOU.

Casting Call:

Let's see, who do I know that can take super sweetness, athleticism and a Southern drawl, and combine it in an adorable package? OBVS:

 

Zach Gilford as Ethan

As for Lena, I know she's too old now but I could NOT stop myself from picturing Alexis Bledel, partly due to physical description and partly due to the fact that she's already played a Lena.

 

Alexis Bledel as Lena

I haven't really talked much about him, but Macon, Lena's uncle, is totes amazing and kinda crazy, which of course means that he's an excellent excuse for me to cast my favorite stately-yet-insane actor, Gary Oldman.

 

Gary Oldman as Macon Ravenwood

Relationship Status: History Fair Partner

Normally I hate group projects, but this book is a DREAM to work with. It's full of great ideas, and it totally loves nerding out with me about family trees, old battlefields and Southern architecture. Plus, it considers libraries to be THE coolest places on earth, and I'm like, OMG, I KNOW! The only problem is that, well, it's kinda long-winded. Sometimes it'll just go on and on, and I'm like, get to the point already so we can finish this project cos I gotta get home before The X-Files comes on! Sure, I believe in good research, but are 563 pages really necessary? Esp. when I figured out the answer after the first hundred? Even though we had fun working together, I doubt our relationship will extend outside of class, because we didn't really connect in a personal way. Still, I wish this book luck on its next project, and if it ever decides to focus solely on the side characters, I'd be happy to work with it again. Esp. if it pulls out the Wild Turkey.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).