A Critical Review of Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

I was really looking forward to reading Beautiful Creatures. I actually talked like crazy on my Tumblr blog about how much I was anticipating reading this book, and how I couldn't wait to lose myself in the world of Gatlin, South Carolina. The movie trailers were intriguing and I had the idea that this was the type of novel that I was going to love.

Boy. I couldn't have been more wrong about this book. Not only did it take me three weeks to get through the entire novel, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth and a sense that continuing to read this saga would be intellectual suicide.

This is the typical boy-meets-girl story, told from the perspective of a sixteen year-old boy named Ethan Wate. In his dreams, he meets and falls in love with a girl who is utterly strange and completely remarkable. It is only then that she arrives in the town of Gatlin, bringing storms that follow her wherever she goes. Because Lena Duchannes, you see, is different. She's very different. In fact, she's a caster.

In my review of Beautiful Creatures, I'll tell you what I did and did not like about the novel. I've been very critical of it, and this is the third review that I'm writing. Every time I write another review of this book, I uncover more reasons that I simply didn't love it. I hope that you'll understand, and that if you did enjoy this story that you'll leave your comments at the end.

This is a spoiler-free review.

A Brief Summary of the Novel

Nothing ever changes in Gatlin, South Carolina. Ethan Wate is desperate to get out, but he knows that he'll never leave Wate's landing, where generations of his father's family have lived. He's tired of the South, tired of their conservative ideals, tired of the War for Southern Independence, tired of the Daughters of the Revolution and just plain tired of Gatlin.

But lately he's been having strange dreams. Dreams from which he wakes up with dirt under his finger nails, his bed soaked in water (not sweat) and his bedroom window wide open. In the dreams there is a girl. She is amazing, beautiful and compelling. And Ethan is in love with the dream girl, even though he's never met her.

Then one day Lena Duchannes moves into town on a storm (during Hurricane Season) and the moment that Ethan lays eyes on her, he realizes that she is the girl from the dream, and that he is madly in love with her and has been since before they met.

What Ethan doesn't know (at least not in the beginning) is that Lena Duchannes comes from a long line of Casters (witches) and she has a lot to contend with -- including the fact that on her sixteenth birthday she will be Claimed for the Dark or for the Light and that she has no choice in which way she is claimed!

Initial Reactions

Boy is this book long.

At first I thought that I was enjoying the book, though later on I realized that was primarily because I felt like I was supposed to enjoy the book and not because I was really loving it. It took until I reached roughly 1/3 of the way through the book and realized that it was only just beginning to "get good" for me to realize that this book is entirely too long.

As I mentioned in my review of Safe Haven (by Nicholas Sparks), I don't particularly like this trend of taking nearly half of a book to develop characters who ultimately have very little personality to begin with. And like Safe Haven, these characters were underdeveloped.

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What I Liked about Beautiful Creatures

The two characters at the right might be the only two redeeming features in this entire novel. If you're a reader and not a moviegoer, you'll just have to try to imagine that the upper image is of a gorgeous blonde sixteen year old and not of Emmy Rossum, who appears to me to be one of the worst casting choices in the history of casting choices.

Alright, so lets get down to business.

This book didn't come alive for me at all until Ridley entered the scene. She comes into the book about 1/3 of the way through the novel, introducing herself to Ethan and to his friends. Unlike her cousin, Lena (the heroine of the novel), everybody takes to her instantly -- including most of the people whose reviews of this book I've read. Interestingly enough, most people who downrate this book (as I have), love Ridley, but disliked the book generally.

Macon is something else entirely. While he appears early on in the novel (if only by rumor), he is dynamic and interesting (for the most part) and his character is fully-developed, which I cannot say for the majority of the teen characters in this novel. I wish that we had more of a chance to see his interludes with Amma and other adult characters in the book, but his parts were so brief that I was disappointed that I hadn't gotten enough of him (and Jeremy Irons in the movie does not hurt!).

These two characters make up the extent of what I enjoyed about this book. I tried very hard to like Beautiful Creatures and I wanted to love it more than anything. In fact, I was eager to get my hands on Beautiful Darkness and am only happy that I didn't jump the gun and waste my money!

3 out of 5 stars from 3 ratings of Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Do you plan on reading Beautiful Creatures?

  • Yes, I do!
  • No, I don't!
  • I already did! (Please be sure to rate the novel above!)
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What's Wrong with Beautiful Creatures?

As usual, I'm going to put this into list form. This is easier for me to do with books that I rate lower than with books that I rate high. Bear with me; this list is by no means short!

  • It's written by two authors. Alright. Granted, these two did a good job of blending their styles together so that there isn't any jarring quality that you sometimes get when two people work on a book together. The problem with this pair is that their reasons for co-authoring a book are entirely bizarre; Garcia wanted to write a paranormal romance and Stohl wanted to write a story set in the South. So together they combined their ideas into a paranormal romance novel set in the South. The concept itself isn't terrible, except that there are some ideological clashes in the book.
  • It's stereotypical and ridiculous. This book would have you believe that all Southerns think about nothing but the War for Southern Independence, that they are unable to get over it, and that all Southern Women wander around in hoop skirts. I may be exaggerating just a little bit, but it is implied that Southerns are prejudiced (I'd venture to say that the authors are!) and that they are intolerant idiots, generally speaking. This is as stereotypical as it comes, and is totally unfair to people who actually come from this part of the country!
  • Two grown women writing from the first-person perspective of a teenage male. It can be done. I have no doubt in my mind that it can be done by someone who has studied the male psyche and is very cognizant of the hormonal feelings and urges of the average sixteen year-old boy. As it is, the running joke about this book is I didn't know Ethan was a guy! He is as feminine as a male protagonist can be without actually having a feminine name. At no point in the book is he believably male. This might appeal to some readers, but surely not to me.
  • Ethan has no personality. Really. There's nothing to him. He's as one-dimensional as everyone is fond of saying Bella Swan is one-dimensional. There isn't much to him other than the fact that he runs with the popular kids, is a wiz at basketball and he's got the hots for Lena. He is as boring a protagonist as I've ever read in my entire life, and I've read Nicholas Sparks, so that's saying something.
  • Lena acts 25, at least. Lena, who begins the book at the tender age of fifteen, acts at least twenty-five years old. At least at first. Once the meltdowns starts, she's more believably fifteen, but her maturity levels are all over the map. One minute she doesn't care what the girls at school think of her and the next minute the fact that they hate her is the end of the world. She's not a believable teenager at all. Ridley is pretty much the same. Maybe Emmy Rossum wasn't the worst pick for the role after all!
  • I don't think that the authors know the meaning of the word "mortal." Casters are mortal. They can be killed and as far as I can tell, they live normal life spans. But the differentiation made between the different classes of characters is "mortal" and "Caster." This rubbed me wrong, even if perhaps it shouldn't have done so. I found it incredibly irritating, but the fact that there are other strange definitions in this book (which would spoil the story were I to reveal them) enhances my displeasure with this particular point.
  • The book is slow to start. I've said that already. Some readers appear to feel that this book took of the start the way that it did in order to develop the setting and the characters, and that it did it well. But I have to say that a good writer doesn't need to work character development that way in order to accomplish what these two were going for; the story should give the personalities of the characters as it goes along, rather than taking 150 pages to bore the reader doing what you could have accomplished naturally.

Will you see the Beautiful Creatures Movie?

  • I've read the book and will NOT be seeing the movie.
  • I've read the book and WILL be seeing the movie.
  • I haven't read the book and will NOT be seeing the movie.
  • I haven't read the book and WILL be seeing the movie.
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Will I See the Movie?

Yes, I'm probably going to see the movie. My best friend has been eager to see it since the trailer was first released, and I know that she's going to want to see it in spite of my failure to enjoy the book.

The trailer (which you can watch at right) doesn't impress me all that much. It gives away enough to reveal the majority of the plot of the story (since there is so little to it to begin with) and I'm pretty sure that the fact that the actors are altogether too old to be playing such young character is going to come into play with me (though this is often the problem with young adult novels that are turned into movies).

My hope in seeing this is that in spite of the strange casting that it might be able to make up for what the book was lacking. Sometimes actors can round out characters that were flat to begin with (though Kristen Stewart -- who I think is amazing -- didn't manage it in Twilight).


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What did you think of Beautiful Creatures? 12 comments

UndercoverAgent19 profile image

UndercoverAgent19 3 years ago

Great review! I had considered reading this book, but from your hub, I can see that it would not be something that I would enjoy at all. Now my time can be better spent reading other things. :)


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 3 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

Glad I can save you some time on this one. It's a very time consuming read that starts out slowly and, IMO, it doesn't end especially well. My review of Divergent is upcoming; that book I *loved*.


krektlick profile image

krektlick 3 years ago

This sounds like a bad re-telling of Twilight (as if it could get any worse). haha. I'm glad I didn't end up reading it. I was thinking about it since the movie came out but...now, I don't think I will after reading this. But you do recommend Divergent? Because I've been debating reading that, as well.


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 3 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

A bad retelling of Twilight is exactly how this book felt to me, and I *liked* Twilight. At least Meyer started in with the story earlier in the novel than Garcia and Stohl did. In this book, nothing happens for more than 100 pages, at the point when Ridley begins to stir things up. I mean, there are minor plot events, but nothing to write home about, and each chapter ends with the same cliffhanger: "We're running out of time!" Ridiculous.

As far as Divergent is concerned, I am pretty well known as a HUGE Hunger Games fan. Divergent is better, in my opinion. I haven't read Insurgent yet, and the final book in the Trilogy doesn't come out until October, so I can't speak for where it goes from here, but Divergent itself is amazing, and definitely worth picking up and reading!


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

Well I am a southern woman so I will take you at your word I would be disappointed and offended. Thank you for sharing.


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 3 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

If you're a Southern woman, I can almost guarantee you that this would offend you. It's absolutely astonishing what some people seem to think about people who live south of the Mason-Dixon line.


manthonyramirez profile image

manthonyramirez 3 years ago from Houston, TX

I thoroughly enjoyed your review. Probably more than I did the novel.

I don't believe I disliked the book as much as you did--though I did have to keep myself interested, which is an author's job--I still was glad when I reached the end.

I will say the the second and third books are improvements, though not much better. That said, I also think that the third book is very anticlimactic in the way that I felt "Breaking Dawn" was as a novel.

As for the film, I would suggest you see it, if you have not already. I feel the characters have more depth to them (at least Ethan does in the first fifteen minutes) than they do in the novel. Whoever penned the screenplay tried his or her very best to work with something that wasn't easy to work with. I did rather enjoy Emmy Rossum's performance in the film (and felt like it compensated a lot for the rest of the movie) though it was not much like the character I had been hoping for from the novel.

I agree with the the Southern cliches, which I was slightly offended by. As a writer (and I will come back to this) from Texas, I couldn't help but desire the Southerners to be less of bigots than they were portrayed to be. Yes, there are a lot of Southerners that still believe the South will rise again, but it does not make up the majority of us, nor does this sort of perpetuation help our cause any in our constant fight against stereotypes. Meanwhile, neither does the fact that I saw horses been ridden down Interstate 10 the other day, but I digress.

What I feel as though these authors were trying to do, but did not successfully accomplish, was write something similar to Anne Rice's "The Witching Hour" (if you have not read it, it's like a much better, much more adult, and much more horrifying version of this novel, and I urge you to for it is just fantastic). Rice perfectly examines Southern life (mostly because she lives in the South herself) and puts that magical twist onto it.

From the perspective of a wanna-be-novelist, I also believe the character development took too long to turn out the way it did. Had the characters had more...well, character...this would have been forgivable. But Ethan and Lena was so all over the map that I couldn't forgive it so easily.

I'm glad you and I share similar opinions. And I highly advise you to check out "The Witching Hour" if you have not already. Though, that book is long as well. But the story keeps you wanting more.

--Anthony


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 3 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

I have trouble with The Witching Hour, mainly because I find reading Rice both compelling and exhausting. Please understand that I think she's an amazing person and I love the majority of her work, but the first 100 pages of The Witching Hour are spent building atmosphere to the point that I forgot I was reading a story. She was much quicker with the earlier books in The Vampire Chronicles, though momentum appeared to have been lost some time around the middle of Memnoch the Devil (and I stopped reading after that).

I believe I have a copy of the book somewhere around here, and I keep meaning to read it, because I've heard that Lasher and Taltos are two of her best works. I'll need to carve out time to read such a lengthy novel, speed through some shorter ones and then make sure that I've got the time lined up for something big, since that one tops 700 pages unless I'm mistaken.

As far as the similarities between the two books, I hadn't even thought of that. I'd been questioning the feeling that I was in Louisiana instead of South Carolina (not saying there aren't swamps in South Carolina, but I am saying that it's not a primary feature of the landscape in that state), and any effort to imitate Rice might be the cause of that.

In general, I don't finish books that I really hate. I've only finished, I think, two books that I gave a single star to when rating them. One of them was Written on the Body, by Jeanette Winterson (recommended by a friend who was absolutely determined that I would think that it was the best book ever) and I can't remember what the other was now, off the top of my head, but Wicked almost got there (then pulled through to a 3-star rating right there at the end!

I try to be very honest in my reviews so that other people know what I like, what I don't like, and how much our taste compares. Because that's where book recommendations and reviews are really won and lost -- on honesty. And I also think that authors need to have a similar integrity when it comes to their honesty with the reader (within the work itself). This book (Beautiful Creatures) lacked that integrity in the character of Ethan, in my opinion.

I still want to see the movie. I'd like to see more of Ridley, really, since she was a compelling part of this book, one of the only things that held my attention for very long. The book's not terrible. I didn't like the bigotry (and that includes the bigoted attitude of the authors toward southerners!) and I wish that Ethan had been a bit more masculine.

And I hate info-dumps.

I've added The Witching Hour to my Goodreads to-read list. Thanks for the recommendation!


manthonyramirez profile image

manthonyramirez 3 years ago from Houston, TX

I appreciate your honesty and I believe that's what makes you an excellent book reviewer (as I spent some time earlier reading some of your other reviews). We share some similar ideas about some of the novels you've reviewed, and I think you have great opinions and points.

I had a similar love-hate relationship with Wicked, by the way. :P


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 3 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

I think a lot of people did (have a love-hate relationship with Wicked). I'm thinking about adding Son of a Witch to my list, since I just found my copy of it. I went looking for The Witching Hour earlier tonight but couldn't track it down. My daughter had a habit for about a year of pulling books off shelves and hiding them lol


manthonyramirez profile image

manthonyramirez 3 years ago from Houston, TX

Haha. I won't lie, Son of a Witch is even harder to keep your attention than Wicked was. But it is an interesting read.


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 3 years ago from North Carolina, USA

It was long, but if there is one thing I've learned in the South, it is patience! I appreciated the Southern setting. I was born in the Midwest (not much different from the South in many ways) and have spent the past 22 years becoming as Southern as an Indiana girl can become. The stereotypes are meant to make a point, and I think they do--they give the protagonists something to fight!

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