Monday, February 25, 2013

Something Wicked in YA

In need of some light reading recently, and unable to find anything decent in the scant selection I managed to sneak into my suitcases when going back to college from Winter Break, I descended once more into the pit of turmoil and self-hatred that is the result of actually using my Kindle.

Unable to utilize any of my personal ability to make decent life choices - recently exhausted in the crafting of the perfect Spring Quarter schedule, which I was completely successful in procuring just this morning - I decided to hop on the back of yet another YA trend wave, and rode it all the way to my virtual Amazon shopping cart, stocked with one book: Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. 

The novel, set in a modern-day South that has the same attitude towards outsiders and the unexplained as an older-day South, centers around young Ethan Wate, a high school kid whose only dreams have ever been to leave his small town of Gatlin, South Carolina, and the mysterious girl whose appearance in his life portends the advent of a series of odd events. Involving car accidents, exploding windows, and some incredibly inclement weather, Lena Duchannes' entrance into Gatlin society does nothing but cause more and more trouble, and for good reason: she's a Caster, some kind of offshoot of your typical witch. Her whole family is full of Casters, including her reclusive and minorly-imbalanced uncle Macon, who has lived in Gatlin his whole life, but never really come out of his house. When faced with something unknown and different, the town lynch mob starts forming immediately. Not to mention the impending doom that is Lena's sixteenth birthday... when her powers will be claimed for either the Light or the Dark. And the difference is, there's hell to pay if her phenomenal powers - those of a Natural - are claimed for the forces of evil. How is a young, blooming relationship to survive amidst all this chaos?

This book was not that bad. It wasn't too great either... I thought that the novel hinged on a suspenseful event for which there was no emotional payoff, that the entire plot was more than mildly sexist (seriously, Lena has some significant issues, I'm not doubting that, I'm just doubting as to whether the entire book should have come off as Ethan constantly having to take care of her and coach her through life's worries), and that the only characters in the book who even came off as mildly self confident were the baddies (hence, the only characters I liked were more than a little evil).

That all being said, this book was fine. It was better than fine, it was okay. And I am not typically "okay" with the majority of YA fiction, as I have voiced previously. It was a little dull and slow in places, the plot may start lagging as you approached the "big" finish, and the aftertaste was more than a little bit cottony and bitter, but for the most part, I enjoyed the unique mythology, the deep-friend Southern flavor, and the narrative voice, which, for having two authors, was surprisingly cohesive.

I can't wait to go back to reading grown-up books again, however. And by grown-up, I mean the wretched notes I have to decipher again for my midterms. And not even magic can help me there.

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