076 – Beautiful Creatures Review, Part Three! Also There Is Some Sort of Plot

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
LAST TIME ON BEAUTIFUL CREATURES: “There are not enough fucking angry gifs in this world to adequately express my rage towards this book. It is fucking awful, and we haven’t even really touched on the plot. It already gets no stars, just on the basis of being fucking offensive horse shit, but hey, for shits and giggles, we’ll cover the plot, too.”

NOW, THE CONCLUSION OF BEAUTIFUL CREATURES.
So, the whole dynamic of male protagonist/hot mysterious supernatural girl comes to town is a reversal of the YA paranormal norm, and I think is actually a concept that could be really interesting and illuminating for the genre…in a better book. Beautiful Creatures does nothing remarkable with it. There was nothing distinguishing about Ethan’s voice or point of view – honestly, I didn’t even know the MC was male until the book told us. Likewise, despite the sexes of the MC and love interest being reversed, the basic gender roles stayed the same: the girl is there to be special and chosen, yet confused and all ~womanly hysterical emotions~ that she can’t control. She is supposedly the most powerful Caster of her generation, and yet is still largely helpless most of the time. Despite being an ordinary human, the boy is there to protect her, I guess with his magically special cock and the power of insta!love.

BUT ANYWAY, Mysterious New Girl, right? It’s actually kind of funny, because in any (and all) other book(s), the hot, mysterious, ~alternative~ new guy in town who reads poetry and wears fashionably ratty jeans would have had the entire cheerleading squad following him around campus with big cartoon hearts in their eyes by lunchtime, but the moment Lena Duchannes rolls her black hearse onto the parking lot, the (all male) basketball team has declared her an undatable, off-limits weirdo, and the cheerleading squad is lining up to pants cattily snark at her. Our protagonist Ethan is the ~only one~ open-minded horny and magically connected enough to wade in to save his literal dream girl Lena from her loneliness and violently out-of-control powers, and stand with her against the small-minded “lynch mob” who want her kicked out of school.

Which, again, is a great deal of the plot. This book was so goddamn long and padded – the climax is set up from the beginning to be Lena’s sixteenth birthday, but we meet her exactly one hundred and fifty-six days before that, so there’s time to kill, okay. Normally I wouldn’t really complain about the main characters having time to get to know one another before they go out and try to get killed for each other, but in this case it doesn’t matter in the least, because their entire relationship is still based on prophetic dreams, the experiences of their ancestors, a telepathic connection (yeah, Lena basically sets up shop in Ethan’s brain. Not creepy AT ALL, right?), and general magical compulsion. The basic sequencing of events is pretty much the same for Beautiful Creatures as it is for any other paranormal romance novel, just extreeeeeeeeeemely decompressed.

The plot is…blegh. Lena is a super-special witch Caster, but OH NOES, thanks to a magical curse brought on by the acts of her ancestors, everyone in her Super-Specially Cursed family has their alignment chosen for them on their sixteenth birthday. Given Lena’s super-specialness, her Claiming is particularly important, so she’s been moved to Gatlin where she can live out her last few autonomous days under the watchful eye of her Uncle Macon, and his ~kooky family~ of Casters. Enter Ethan, forbidden love, not-reincarnation reincarnation crap, blah blah.

So, right off the bat, we have a few problems – not only are we told in no uncertain terms that there exists absolute Good and absolute Evil, but that it is Light and Dark, respectively, and that you a) are one OR the other, and b) you don’t get to choose. Oh, yeah, and the decision is made for you at sixteen.

sigh

I just…augh, no. No. I’m sorry, but if your book relies on fate and deals in absolute Good and Evil, you and me are going to have a problem. I don’t buy that crap. Not for a single minute, even within the world that this book creates, do I believe that someone could be made good or evil against their will, and it doesn’t help build the drama or tension or my suspense of disbelief that the story is so vague about exactly how this occurs, or what it means.

We’re supposed to be SO AFRAID that Lena will go Dark, but why? We don’t know what this means. They say “evil”, but the only evil Caster we’ve seen so far is Ridley, and the only evil she’s demonstrated is hyped-up sexuality and recklessness. If that’s all that happens, I’m rooting for the Dark. But really, is that supposed to be scary? Does the Darkness affect everyone differently? We don’t fucking know, so why should we care?

It is literally not until the final confrontation, about thirty pages short of the end, that we finally get a concrete answer as to why we should give a shit:

“Once you Turn, you won’t even care about those people. And you’ll have me, your mother, your uncle, and Ethan. Isn’t he the most important person in your life?”

[…]

Macon grabbed Lena by both arms. “She’s right. If you agree to this, you won’t feel remorse, because you won’t be yourself. The person you are now will be dead. What she’s not telling you is that you won’t remember your feelings for Ethan. Within a few months, your heart will be so Dark, he won’t mean anything to you. The Claiming has an incredibly powerful effect on a Natural. You may even kill him by your own hand – you will be capable of that kind of evil.”
Yeaaaaaah, nope, still don’t care.

So they just flip your goddamn evil switch to “up”, huh? Ugh, this ~magical morality~ crap. Do you know how utterly fucking ridiculous the idea of someone being ~all good~ or ~all bad~ is? You can’t think about that for too long, because it makes no sense. I mean, who fucking decides what is ~good~ and what is ~evil~, and has the Casters act accordingly? And no, we’re not getting meta up in this shit and declaring “the writer”!

Seriously, there are easy things, like killing for no reason, raping, owning people, that shit’s evil, sure. But what else counts? Having a bad attitude? Being rude? Having indiscriminate sex with people? What about Good? Do you have to go to church every Sunday? Donate to charity? Never say a swearword? Ensure that you children have a happy, loving childhood? It’s such a ridiculous premise because life is fucking relative, and that relativity is the end of black-and-white morality. Relativity affects people’s choices, and good and evil are choices, not just fucking labels you slap on your chest.

But fuck, say that what they want us to think is that Lena will become some sort evil-perpetuating robot. Well, they’ve already effectively nullified that option with the characterization of Ridley. Ridley is a Dark Caster, yet seems to be in full control of her actions. Throughout the book, while her behavior is reckless and amoral where humans are concerned, she consistently demonstrates lingering affection for Lena, and a growing fondness for Ethan’s best friend Link. She cares for them, enough to actually deviate from the plan – or, perhaps her “programming” – to do right by them, so clearly she is not an Evil Robot, incapable of making conscious decisions. She reads more like a girl pissed off at her shitty family. So is the Curse REALLY so much harsher on Lena that she won’t even retain the kind of self-awareness that Ridley has?

headache

Wouldn’t it be a great twist, though, if the family thought it was a curse the whole time, and it just turned out to be shitty parenting? Because I would actually argue that the way the family handles its children, both pre- and post-Claiming, would have more affect on their psyches than some nonsense magical curse. I mean, they:

  1. Take the children away from their parents at birth so the parents won’t get too attached,

  2. Create an unstable childhood by passing the kids around from place to place,

  3. Homeschool and intentionally isolate them from interaction with normal humans, preventing them from experiencing proper socialization,

  4. All the while instilling fear of this awful sixteenth birthday where they might arbitrarily turn evil and be exiled from the family, because of something they have absolutely no control over.

Is it a surprise that these people might turn out kids with emotional problems, who end up using their super powers in somewhat unsavory ways? And instead of trying to rehabilitate or work with them, they just cut them loose, at sixteen! Like, “Sorry, you fucked up somewhere along the line and now the moon has decided you are evil, therefore you are no longer part of this family. Have fun with that whole “life” thing, child-in-the-midst-of-puberty.”

Seriously, these people are assholes! Are we really supposed to be rooting for Lena join their side?

At any rate, all of this ~fate~ shit might go over better if the book had followed through on this idea it brings up about halfway through the story – “Claim Yourself”. Okay, you know what, that’s not a half-bad moral. Family and society pressuring you to be one thing or the other? Fuck ’em. Claim Yourself! That could have been a decent solution, but is yet again foiled by Beautiful Creature‘s determination to be just laughably awful.

So we come to the end of the book, it’s Lena’s birthday, she’s finally having the confrontation with her mother and uncle, and her mom drops the bomb:

“A choice afforded to you because you are my daughter, the second Natural born into the Duchannes family. I may be a Cataclyst now, but I was the first Natural born into our family.”

Sarafine paused, then repeated a verse:

“‘The First will be Black But the Second may choose to turn back.'”
Spit Take Laugh

Let’s just all take a moment to appreciate that godawful prophecy, man.

Anyway, so yes, it turns out Lena can choose! There’s really no reason for this to be a last-minute revelation, other than ~drama~ – the Casters have known all along, and there was no reason to not tell Lena. Macon tries to insist it was because of the consequences of her choice, but he could have easily JUST told her about the choice and not the consequences, since it seems like he never intended to tell her about those, anyway. Which is a pretty shitty decision, by the way. Like not giving someone to opportunity to make peace with something awful is doing them a favor.

“If you choose to go Dark, all the Light Casters in our family will die.”

Lena went pale. “Why would I ever agree to do that?”

“Because if you choose to go Light, all the Dark Casters and Lilum in our family will die.” Sarafine turned and looked at Macon. “And I do mean, all. Your uncle, the man who has been like a father to you, will cease to exist. You will destroy him.”
Oh yeah, did I mention that Macon was an incubus, which makes him a de facto Dark creature, or “Lilum”? No, I have no idea where the fuck the incubus thing came from, and yes, it feels really out of place. He also has an evil brother who just magically turns up in the last thirty pages, to make it more of a fair fight, I guess.

Then there’s this-

“…you and Ethan can never be together, not physically. Casters and Lilum cannot be with Mortals.” She smiled, relishing the moment. “At least not without killing them.”
So I get that they seeded this, sort of, with a scene where Ethan and Lena were making out and something happened and he had to be healed afterwards, but a) it was seriously unclear as to what happened in the first place, b) they like never talk about it again until this moment, which c) if it really were that serious a thing, you would think it’d have happened more than once. Again, this feels like a twist for the sake of a stupid fucking plot device to keep them apart while the series shits out another three books.

Anyway, there’s a lot of angst, they fight, blah blah blah, and somehow an hour and a half passes in the space of one conversation, yet Link and Ethan manage to get across town and back in half an hour. Whatev. And then, oh my god, hilarity of all hilarities-

They punt:

“Amma.”

“Yes?”

“Where’s the moon?”

“Well if you don’t know, child, I sure don’t. One minute I was lookin’ up at your Sixteenth Moon. And you were standin’ under it, starin’ up at the stars like only God in Heaven could help you, palms raised like you was holdin’ up the sky. Then, nothin’. Just this.”

“What about the Claiming?”

She paused, considering. “Well, I don’t know what happens when there’s no Moon on your birthday on the Sixteenth Year, at midnight. It’s never happened before, far as I know. Seems to me there can’t be a Claimin’, if there’s no Sixteenth Moon.”
Yeah, that is actually how Amma talks, and yeah, that’s fuckin’ right, Lena uses her powers to make the fucking moon go away, I shit you not, and somehow, it is literally the moon that Claims her, and since she has told the moon to fuck off, she doesn’t have to choose her alignment until next fucking year.

I shit you guys not.

That is some of the most blatant fucking deus ex machina shit I have seen in a book, ever. Talk about getting out on a magically fucking technicality, holy god, have you ever seen anything so ridiculous? It’s like this was perhaps only intended to be one book, but then someone was like, “Hey, you could make a lot more of these”, and nobody wanted to change the ending, because this whole thing has been built around Lena’s sixteenth fucking birthday, so they were just like SHIT I DON’T KNOW JUST THROW THE BALL THROW IT GET IT OUT OF HERE FUCK NEXT YEAR NEXT YEAR!

Oh my god, if there’s a less satisfying conclusion, I don’t know if I could think of it.

But hey! Ethan dies! Sort of. He gets stabbed right in the stomach and then the book switches to Lena’s POV, and really, it just shows that it should have been in her point of view all along, if they couldn’t tell the whole story with Ethan. Anyway, Lena is just SO DEVASTATED that Ethan’s died that she decides to, yeah, do that spell that her ancestor Genevieve did when her Ethan died, because well fuckshit, that turned out okay, right? I mean, it just doomed an entire family of Casters to being unable to choose their fates, how could it possibly go wrong this time? After all-

I spoke the words with confidence. A certain confidence that only comes from truly not caring whether you live or die.
She doesn’t care if she lives or dies, okay, her high school boyfriend is dead, her life is just TOTALLY OVER.

But it works, in a way, and kills her Uncle in Ethan’s place. Ah, well, he was going to die anyway, right? Now there’s nothing to stop her from Claiming herself for Light! You know, next year. The end, happily ever after for three hundred and sixty-five more days, and the book goes out on Ethan finding a magical new song about Seventeen Moons on his magical iPod or whatever.

God, this book, this book was just awful, you guys, in every fucking way. If you couldn’t tell from those excerpts, the writing is middling to laughably awkward, the book is like three hundred pages longer than it needs to be, the characters are generally boring or assholes, and oh yeah, let’s not forget the whole racist/misogynist/generally dick part. I’ve racked my brain and I can’t think of a single good thing to say about it, except that maybe it didn’t go out of it’s way to offend gay people, just sort of forgot that they existed. Oh, and that it spawned a much more interesting movie in which Jeremy Irons got to be camp as fuck.

no stars


Bonus Quotespam



The CURLING:

Lena’s hair started to curl and uncurl itself as if there was a wind in the room. There wasn’t.
“I just have to stop at my locker and get my book,” Lena said. Her hair began to curl around her shoulders. I was suspicious, but I didn’t say anything.
“Let me guess, complicated?” The two of them stared at each other. Lena’s hair was curling.
Lena’s hair was waving. She was already feeling the magic of this place.
“They’re beautiful,” Lena breathed. I could see her hair still twisting, and wondered how this place must feel to her, in ways I could never know.
Lena was shaking, even though she didn’t look scared. I kept squeezing her hand, trying to reassure her. Her long black hair was curling and uncurling, as if she was about to explode, or maybe I was.
Lena turned slightly and dropped the Book on top of my bag. As she did, I saw green sparks in her eyes, and the curling motion of her hair as it caught the moonlight, the Casting breeze.
I could see Lena’s hair starting to curl in the nonexistent wind.
I looked over at her, her black hair curling, and her dirty wet cheeks.
hair

LIKE THAT, ALL THE TIME.

I didn’t get the chance to mention it, but even Macon’s house is speshul snowflake Housey Sue; it changes architectural styles and decor to suit Macon’s mood. This is what happened the one time it responded to Lena:

Ravenwood had changed again. Inside, it looked like a maximum-security prison. The windows had bars and the walls were smooth concrete, except for in the front hallway, where they were orange and padded. Lena was wearing an orange jumpsuit with the numbers 0211, her birthday, stamped on it, her hands covered in writing. She looked kind of cool, actually, her messy black hair falling around her. She could even make a prison jumpsuit look good.
Ethan’s low opinion of women and fat intersect and extend even beyond teenagers:

This was particularly amusing because the DAR members, including Mrs. Lincoln, conducted these tours in period dress; they squeezed into girdles and layers of petticoats that made them look like sausages about to burst from their casings.
This is the first time Saraphine is introduced to us in person. It’s so camp and ridiculous I laughed out loud.

A moment later, Mrs. Lincoln’s face, her dress, her whole body literally started to split down the middle. You could see the skin on either side pulling away like the crumpled wrapper of a candy bar. As her body split down the center, it started to fall like a coat being shrugged from someone’s shoulders. Underneath was someone else.
EVERYONE IS EMOGOTHSEXAYYY!!!!

Sarafine was wearing a dark green corseted velvet dress, kind of modern and Gothic and turn-of-the-century, all at the same time, and tall black motorcycle boots. She literally stepped out of Mrs. Lincoln’s body, which fused back together within seconds, as if someone had sewn up the seam.
“She’s a Sybil, she reads faces. She can see what you’ve seen, who you’ve seen, what you’ve done, just by looking into your eyes. She can open up your face and literally read it, like a book.”
LITERALLY. SHE LITERALLY READS YOUR FACE. I wonder what font Lena’s is in.

I leaned down and kissed her mouth. It tasted salty, like her tears.
I think this was supposed to be poetic or some shit, but it stuck out to me as one of the more DURRRRRR lines in the book.

 

15 Responses

  1. Sparky

    March 9, 2013 1:49 pm, Reply

    After the first 2 installments I looked at this with a dual sense of morbid curiosity and dread… part of me thinks “the worst, it must be over” but then I think – but a third post? There’s more fail! MORE? At which point I feel almost slightly impressed that a book can pack so much fail in. That’s dedication to being awful there

    • Kayla + Cyna

      March 9, 2013 6:38 pm, Reply

      Hahaha, right? Well I figured we should probabaly try and get a few words about the actual plot in there somewhere. But yeah, racism, misogyny, terrible story, BC is pretty much the whole package.

  2. Sissy Belle

    March 9, 2013 6:36 pm, Reply

    I just want to be clear that it has been proven time and again that homeschooling does not isolate children nor ruin their chance at “socialization”. Maybe how they do it in the book does, but in general it doesn’t.

    I know I’m probably overthinking your words but I didn’t want to let that pass by without comment.

    • Kayla + Cyna

      March 9, 2013 6:42 pm, Reply

      Oh yeah, sorry, I didn’t mean to imply it was that case always. But yes, in the book the girls are intentionally kept apart from humans, and the homeschooling is a part of that.

  3. Vicki S.

    March 10, 2013 4:58 pm, Reply

    Oh God, those hair curling quotes remind me of someone I used to write with in forums. Granted we were all writing some pretty silly shit (Harry Potter role play), but I swear every single one of her posts contained her character(s) licking their lips. Sometimes more than once. I often wondered if they were lizard people.

    Can’t wait to hear if the movie made things better or worse. I know, it already seems like you can’t get worse than a book this awful, but I’ve already learned never to underestimate Hollywood.

    Is it depressing to know that you have City of Bones and The Host yet to read? Ugh, I can’t imagine coming out of this shitstorm with those two on the horizon… When is Ender’s Game coming out again?!?!?

    • Kayla + Cyna

      March 10, 2013 8:55 pm, Reply

      Haha, it’s like someone who can’t find anything to do with their hands, like, O SHIT I NEED INTERESTING BETWEEN-DIALOGUE DESCRIPTION. UHHHHH SHE LICKED HER LIPS! The curling thing was just so bizarre because all you get is “curling” and you just have to sort of guess as to what she means by that. They finally say that it’s because of a “casting breeze”, but before that it’s like “Is her hair fucking doing itself? WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY??”

      Oh man, the BC cast was really fun to record and talk about, I promise, I’ll have it up ASAP.

      Omg for reals. I have this stack of books from the library that have over 80% chance of being good, and I can’t read them because The Host comes out in twenty days. SOB SOB. Thank god CoB isn’t til August!

  4. Ilex

    March 20, 2013 7:06 pm, Reply

    You are so not kidding about the ending! I just about stomped on the book (at least it was a library book and I didn’t pay for it) when I got to that, “Oh, gee, now we can just wait until next year! And churn out four more books covering a measly 90 days each! And collect all the readers’ money! Bwahahahah” total COP-OUT. I still can’t believe I slogged through 150,000 words to get to that.

    • Kayla + Cyna

      March 22, 2013 2:56 am, Reply

      RIGHT? That is pretty much it: 150,000 words for a goddamn sequel punt. FUUUUUUUCK THAAAAAAAAAT. I skimmed the summary for Beautiful Redemption, which I believe is the last book, and it said some shit about “surviving the Eighteenth Moon”, and I was like, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. They did not do it AGAIN. TWICE.” I’m sort of curious, but I don’t even care enough to check Wikipedia.

  5. RogueFiccer

    April 1, 2013 8:35 pm, Reply

    Oh, wow. That’s *bad*. Extremely bad. How the hell did this shit get popular? Would anyone think poorly of me if I decided that it would be in the best interest of my as-yet-unborn children to never allow them to come in contact with the world until they were adults so they could grow up untainted by the horrible crap in the world that the fat shaming, misogyny, sexism, and general bullshit in this book is representative of?

  6. David Spencer

    April 12, 2013 7:03 am, Reply

    Wait, so has no Claiming ever happened on a New Moon? Or is that different from there being no moon? Because if the Moon literally disappeared for a night wouldn’t that have SOME impact on the rest of the world?

    • Kayla + Cyna

      April 12, 2013 2:42 pm, Reply

      Your guess is as good as mine. It wasn’t clear, probably because they realized how ridiculously stupid and ass-pull it was, and best not to waste too much time trying to explain that shit.

  7. JoWrites

    July 4, 2014 2:20 am, Reply

    I tried to read this for a book club. I like that you mentioned at the beginning of this one, you didn’t know he was a boy until we were told. Because that is what made me give up on this book pretty much from the start. I kept forgetting that this was supposed to be a boy, because he didn’t think anything like how a boy thinks. It was all revenge hate from girls that I’m already sick of reading in YA, and I kept thinking “God, girl get over your jealously” only to be reminded that this was supposed to be a boy.

    I didn’t even get far enough in to see what the plot was supposed to be about, because I couldn’t get a few pages without having to remind myself this is suppose to be a boy. It just gave me a headache. Then I looked and saw that it was written by not just one, but two women and was like: one of you couldn’t have hinted that having this obvious “what I wish men where thinking, but aren’t” character is probably a bad idea?

    • Cyna Cyna

      July 5, 2014 3:12 am, Reply

      Yeah I sort of wavered about that bc I was like “Well, who says boys have to sound any certain way?” but fuck man, boys have different experiences and perspectives than girls, and this was just not representative of that in any way.

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