Ethan Wate lives in Gatlin, your typical southern town where there’s no McDonald’s or Starbucks, everybody knows your name, and nothing ever changes. Fortunately for him he’s grown up in the atypical Gatlin family, which by the rest of the country’s standards makes him pretty normal. Like not calling the Civil War the War Between the States, not owning a Confederate flag and actually having spent time at the city library. Naturally Ethan’s dreams mostly consist of him leaving Gatlin, but up until the start of his sophomore year a mysterious girl has haunted him.
Enter Lena Duchannes, and these dreams seem to become a reality. The new girl and niece of the town recluse, Lena’s resemblance is striking, and her failure to fit in puts her in a similar state of distress. Ethan tries to befriend Lena but she just pushes him away. He doesn’t care if her family is cursed and if she possesses certain unexplainable powers and has dark secrets to boot. She’s different, refreshing, beautiful and doesn’t belong. Nothing will keep Ethan away from her.
Cryptic enough? After practically inhaling Beautiful Creatures I’m happy to report that it’s as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside, and thankfully that goodness and discovery isn’t spoiled by the book jacket. I will say that in a saturated genre the paranormal aspect feels new and original and is intriguing. To those who are deterred by the length, I reply that I wouldn’t have it any other way. The 550+ pages did justice to the setting and concept as well as allowing a stellar plot to be masterfully weaved and the characters to gradually be explored and developed (particularly Ethan). Lena was harder to see clearly but eventually won me over with all she’s had to endure and what’s coming up ahead. Their relationship is sweet, authentic, and a joy to watch develop.
That said what will really stay with me was the setting – a tangible South so completely realized and fresh that it became a character of its own. If Gatlin is anything like the real South, I must visit this singularly quirky and backward yet lovely planet. I want to meet DAR members, take US history from Mr. Lee, get soaked in a humid downpour and meet Ethan’s three aunties with their framed family trees, syrupy accents, and old-fashioned Southern hospitality. While I felt slightly cheated by the lack of closure the ending offered, it was an impeccable set up for the next installment. A year of pining awaits.