Book 39: A Great and Terrible Beauty

 

"The vicar, whose name is Reverend Waite, leads us in prayers that all begin with 'O Lord' and end with our somehow not being worthy- sinners who have always been sinners and will forever more be sinners until we die. It isn't the most optimistic outlook I've ever heard. But we're encouraged to keep trying anyway."

Dates read: April 2-3, 2016

Rating: 4/10

Lists/awards: NY Times Bestseller

I love secondhand shopping. Part of it is that I'm cheap: I don't like paying more for something I could pay less for. My clothes are only new the very first time I wear them. As long as something is in good repair, why not pay $7 for a pre-worn-but-great-condition cherry red cardigan instead of finding it new for $45? As I've lived in apartments my entire adult life and bought furniture that I've always intended to be temporary, why not just buy a table someone's served dinner on before? And books...well, I've already talked about my fondness for secondhand books, but this is something I will always repeat: I love secondhand books. As thrilling as it can be to score a book you've been looking for at the used bookstore, there's also a chance to browse through the shelves and see what catches your eye that you might be willing to take on flyer on for $2.

Which is how I picked up Libba Bray's A Great And Terrible Beauty. The cover art is striking, and the back promised a mix of the supernatural, girls boarding school drama, and a touch of gothic horror. While none of those things is a Must Read for me in and of itself, the combination sounded intriguing. And so, two American dollars later, I had my copy in my hot little hands. The book follows 16 year-old Gemma, who has been living in India with her parents for virtually her entire life and wants desperately to go live in England. But when she has a mystical vision of her mother's gruesome death, which comes true, she finds her wish granted in the worst possible way. To England she goes, sent straight off to boarding school at gloomy Spence Academy. She doesn't quite fit in with the other girls...until she catches queen bee Felicity in a compromising position and bribes her way into the inner circle. Gemma's power grows, and there's a secret diary that the girls read and use to find their way into a whole other world...where, of course, danger lurks.

Some experiments work out well. Some don't. This was a miss for me. It's the first of a trilogy, and it's usually been my experience that the first entry in a series is the best one in terms of a standalone story. Not so here...the entire idea of the realms and The Order and the Rakshana feels like Bray herself doesn't really understand how it all works and where she's trying to go with it, but figures she can get to it in the sequels. Same with Gemma and her friends...they're still sketches, their characters are very thin. I think YA can be a great genre, and some of the YA books I've read are still among my favorites. But I think it's often the home of some lazy writing and mistaking stereotypes and/or tropes for actual characters, and this book falls into the proverbial chaff rather than the proverbial wheat for me.

Tell me, blog friends...what's your favorite genre to read?

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