I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
Ethan Wate is haunted by dreams of a girl he’s never met. When Lena Duchannes moves into his small southern town of Gatlin County, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her. And he is determined to uncover the strange connection between them, even if it means uncovering the one secret that could change everything. (source)
I think that this is one of those books that most people either really, really love or really, really hate. Prior to reading it as part of my US of YA reading challenge, I really didn't know much about it. I remembered that a movie adaptation had come out last year, but I didn't remember the movie doing exceptionally well, and this series, while semi-popular, is not one that's had roaring success, like The Hunger Games trilogy or the Harry Potter series. Yet for a series that's not super popular, the reviews that I've read have been extremely passionate. When I looked up the book on goodreads, most of the top reviews gave the book only one star. I mean, there are some people out there who hate this book. With a passion. And then, in the midst of all of these awful reviews, there are some reviewers who absolutely rave. To the point where they'll say this is one of the best books they've ever read. So, suffice to say, going in, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. But, I'll be honest - I was leaning more towards expecting this to be awful.
After reading this, I do see what a lot of the haters have seen. I do not think that this is one of the best paranormal romances in YA literature, as some of the novel's fans have claimed. I agree - Ethan is not your stereotypical teenage boy (but to counter that - just because he's not stereotypical, does that really mean he's unrealistic? Personally, I'd like to see less stereotypes in literature, not perpetuate them). The novel does follow a predictable formula - MC falls in love with the outcast, who turns out to be supernatural and apparently pivotal to the fate of humanity, there's the "I want you but it's too dangerous" trope... there's no denying that we've seen alllll of this before. And I also agree with critics who feel that there's too much fluff in the novel - this book easily could have (and should have) been 200 pages shorter. To all of these criticisms, I will add the flaws that I have observed myself - I feel that this novel has two very distinct voices, and while this is understandable, the novel should have been edited so that it flowed as though it were written by a single author, and the inconsistent attempts at a Southern dialect were utterly futile in their execution, making them more annoying than anything else.
So, you see, I definitely see where all of the critics are coming from. This novel has its fair share of flaws and I don't blame readers for pointing them out.
That being said, I really and truly enjoyed the story. I do think that it could have been told more effectively, but I genuinely enjoyed the story. I absolutely LOVED Marian the Librarian (yes, as a future librarian, that could have been my personal bias coming into play. But still - LOVED her!). I thought that Garcia and Stohl's take on witchcraft was original and I loved learning about the world that they created together. I greatly appreciate that they did not info-dump. I do think that they should have come up with simpler names for the Casters' different specialties, because I couldn't keep them straight to save my life, but I acknowledge the creativity necessary to create this story. Yes, Ethan's a bit more in touch with his emotions than I think most 16 year old boys are, but I found that to be endearing, and again, I think it's important we're saying most, not all teenage boys. Ethan does not fit the stereotype, and I think that's a good thing. We need more atypical guys in literature! I would've liked a bit more development with Genevieve's story, but I can see how that could potentially develop a bit more in later books. I also would've liked to see a bit more development with Ridley - I loved reading about her when she was around and would've liked to see more of her.
Overall, I think that this book is a classic example of a concept that has a TON of potential, but simply wasn't executed as well as it should have been. I really enjoyed reading Beautiful Creatures and I fully intend to continue the series at some point, though probably not any time soon because I have too many other books on my TBR list that are of a higher priority right now. While I don't think that this book is worth the heaps of praise that some readers give it, I also don't think that it deserves excesses of negative criticism. I have read books that are far better than Beautiful Creatures, but I have also read books that are far, far worse. Despite its imperfections, I liked this book a lot - 4 out of 5 stars from me.