The Low Down: Gatlin is a small, southern town in South Carolina. It is small in every sense of the word. There are the DAR ladies who love to gossip about everyone’s lineage. The same girls are cheerleader and win the Peach Pageant every year. The Battle of Honey Hill gets reenacted annually and the Civil War is still referred to in history class as the War of Northern Aggression. There’s the town recluse, kids hang out at the Dar-ee Keen and everyone knows your business. As Ethan’s dad said, there are only two kinds of people in this town: the stupid and the stuck.
Ethan’s tired of it all, especially since his mother died in an accident less than a year ago. It doesn’t help that he’s started having dreams about a girl, a girl who is falling and he can’t save her. A girl that he know he cares about deeply. Which, last time he looked, certainly wasn’t anyone in Gatlin. And there’s that smell of rosemary and lemons, and a haunting song he finds on his iPod. Then Ethan’s best friend, Link, tells Ethan that there is a new girl at school; and better, yet – she’s the niece of the town recluse, Macon Ravenwood, who hasn’t been seen in years. Her name is Lena Duchannes, and she is about to turn Ethan’s world inside out.
Ethan and Lena find an old cameo on the Greenbrier property next to Ravenwood, and they both have a vision about what happened the night Greenbrier was burned to the ground along with almost every other house at the end of the Civil War. Something dark happened that night when Genevieve tried to save her dying love. Something that the Duchannes family was still paying for.
There is a deep connection between Ethan and Lena. They can speak to each other by kelting – all they have to do is think a thought, and the other hears it. Of course Lena is the girl in Ethan’s dream, but he doesn’t know yet if he will have to save her one day. What if everything you thought was real and true was, but there was more than what you thought? What if the “more than” was living in your town, under your town? What if you found out that people, like your housekeeper, Amma, who is more like a mother to you, knew the secrets of the past? What if her charms and salt actually did ward off evil?
Best Thang ‘Bout It: The idea that nothing ever changes in a small town or nothing new ever happens is turned on its ear when Lena comes to town. The minds of the citizens of Gatlin are in overdrive because there is something new to gossip about. But when the inhabitants of Ravenwood don’t give in easily, it’s war.
There is another world beneath their feet, and the Gatlinites don’t even know it. They probably wouldn’t acknowledge it if they did. What they do know is the status quo, and if anything does outside of that box, it is wrong. Ethan slowly finds out that there is more to what he knows about his deceased mother, Lila; Marian the (yes) librarian who was best friends with Lila; and even steadfast, no-nonsense Amma.
I really liked certain characters – Macon, Amma, Link, Marion, Ridley, Boo. They were very well developed and interesting. I could picture them easily.
I’m Cranky Because: I know I am going to take heat for this, but I was not enamored of Lena. I know all of the circumstances regarding why she was in Gatlin and her connection to Ethan were supposed to make me understand why they were together and stayed together, but I never connected with that character. Self-centered, she didn’t even try to get along with anyone (which I get it, was supposed to be her appeal). She was more of a sad-sack that was just going to accept what was happening to her without a question. She acted like she wanted to fight, but I never knew if she was going to or not. If they had such a great love, then it is surprising they didn’t try harder.
Lena and Ethan seem to be pulled along in the story, which I can understand to a point. They appear to be observers more than fighters, so they don’t seem as 3D as a lot of the secondary characters. Most of the townsfolk seem very stereotypical, but maybe that’s more the truth than anything. We know there is more beneath the surface of some of them.
There are reasons that Ethan and Lena can’t be together, but by golly, they are going to overcome them, no matter what. Maybe Ethan should have just moved on.
Should You?: Despite the way my last three paragraphs sound, I think it is a good solid book. Learning about the magic, the history and those great secondary characters make it way worth reading. So yes.
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl was published on December 1, 2009 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction Fantasy Paranormal Romance
Ages: 12 and up