Let’s get straight to it. This book was WAY TOO LONG. As in 200 pages too long. Maybe 300. I felt the same way while reading this book that I felt when I watched Pearl Harbor at the movie theater. I squirmed in my seat during the three and a half hour run time, and I grew increasingly distraught as calendar pages drifted across the screen. I wanted to scream, “GET TO DECEMBER 7TH ALREADY!!!” Same thing here. I read this book on my Kindle, and I was worn out long before I completed 50%. But I forged ahead.
In Beautiful Creatures, I lost track of how many times I read the following:
Ethan: Talk to me.
Lena: You wouldn’t understand.
Ethan: Please talk to me.
Lena: It’s dangerous. I’m scared. You’ll get hurt.
Ethan: I don’t care.
Lena: You won’t believe me. You will never speak to me again.
And on and on and on.
But the length of this book is far from the only problem. Let’s start with Lena. She’s hard to like. The first word that comes to mind when I think of Lena is sullen. She’s like K Stew with a witch’s hat and a broom. (And for the record, I like Kristen.) I still don’t know what are we supposed to feel for Lena. Is she a martyr? Is she a symbol of other oppressed people through history? All I saw was a weak, annoying girl who happens to have a few cool magic tricks up her sleeve.
Ethan is no better. His most notable characteristic is his blandness. I’m trying to think of a less interesting main character whom I’ve read recently, but I can’t come up with any. Perhaps this is a result of the inability of two female authors to write from a believable teenage male POV, because I think most readers will be unable to relate Ethan to any real-life teenage boys.
The first 25% of the book includes many exchanges like those above. Ethan is TOTALLY confused about Lena. What exactly is she? He asks her repeatedly, but she insists that it would be dangerous if he knew. How? Why? I still have no idea. Ethan’s confusion continues even after he has already witnessed many supernatural occurrences involving Lena, including inexplicably shared memories with her, a house with an interior that changes daily, telepathy, telekinesis , Lena’s ability to control weather, and windows that burst when Lena gets upset. But yet, Ethan is still not QUITE sure that Lena is not an ordinary girl.
When Lena finally tells her big secret – she’s a Caster (a fancy word for witch) – I think we’re supposed to be as shocked as Ethan. Now, I would have been shocked if Lena pulled The Crying Game card out (I won’t spoil it, in case you haven’t seen it), or if she said, “I’m dead, and you’ve been talking to a corpse.” But to be shocked to learn that she’s a girl with supernatural powers? Dude, where have you been for the first 100 pages?
Beautiful Creatures is not lacking in manufactured drama. Everything supernatural is supposed to be top secret. And yet, Lena’s family and every mortal in town with any knowledge of the situation (which seems to be everyone) is in on it. Marian the librarian (hey, it rhymes!) is chock full of information and is more than willing to dish it out, but then she says she can’t help. When Ethan attends dinner at Lena’s house with all of her witchy relatives, secrecy is the last thing on anyone’s mind, and I wondered if truth serum was one of the courses.
Lena is subjected to nastiness at the hands of the Mean Girls at high school because, as we’re told, this is a small-town, and apparently that’s how small-town kids behave. The kids are clued in to the fact that Lena’s a witch, but when Lena retaliates with a witchy prank, no one suspects her. Lena is eventually dragged before the school board in another bit of ridiculousness. Why was this necessary? When her uncle Macon swoops in to save the day, I wondered why he didn’t make those same accusations in private. He would have spared Lena the humiliation that she suffered, and he would have saved us from having to read those pages.
These nearly 600 pages trudge on to an uninteresting, anti-climactic ending. The explanation from the big baddie on why he/she did what he/she did was absurd. I’m pretty sure that I was supposed to feel sad at the end, but I was just ecstatic that it was over.
And now that I’ve rambled on long enough to have read Beautiful Creatures for a second time (not gonna happen), I’ll finish with a couple of positives:
- Boo, the dog was cute.
- Ridley, Lena’s cousin, had a couple of decent moments and was the only character who was not completely humorless.
So, here’s my dilemma. I’ve already purchased the full series. Fortunately, I got the e-books when they were on sale for $3 each. Do they get any better, or should I just give up?