Oy with the ‘Beautiful Creatures’ (books)

4 Mar

Back in December I saw the new trailer for Beautiful Creatures and was interested in finding out more about the story.  I figured, I’ve got almost two months before it comes out…I’ll read the books.  So I hit the library and spent a week or two in January getting through them.

Yes, I did say ‘getting through them.’

This blog post is NOT intended as a book review.  I did not make any formal notes to share, but I did want to toss out a couple of general impressions about the book series now that the movie is out in theaters.

I love the young adult genre.  I am generally prejudiced in favor of any book with a cover bearing that description.  And I also knew others liked it when I sat down to read this.  Who can argue with the ‘New York Times Best-seller’ label on the cover?

SPOILER ALERT:  The last chapter of the last book is basically the ‘Beautiful Creatures’ equivalent of ‘Ecclesiastes.’  The entire chapter sums up the whole series: there is no point to life; there is no point to religion (except the characters’/authors’, of course); there is no point at all.  Which might explain why I rolled my eyes every five pages throughout the whole series.

I love monsters.  I love fantasy stories that stretch me beyond myself.  But the ‘Caster Chronicles’ book series lost me.

The first book introduces the main character, a teen named Ethan on his first day of his sophomore year at the only high school in a small, religious Southern town that he wants out of so bad he can taste it.  His mom has died, and his father is absent in grief.  Teen angst.  We get it.  But throughout the entire series, even though the game changes from day one for Ethan, an opportunity is never missed to repeat how horrible the people are who are small, religious and Southern (it would appear the only exception are those who want to get out).  I don’t have a problem with the description.  It can often be true.  I have a problem that so many characters are so very one-sided.  I have a problem that the books go on and on about how Dark Casters have light and Light Casters have dark…but it never holds true for any of the poor Mortal saps.

There are several explanations for gaps in the mythology itself that are missing.  There are holes in the story or characters (not the sky) that never get filled.  There are times when characters want things badly, and we’re told would do anything for it, but in the long run they really won’t because they don’t ask for help from people they are said to admire and love.  I longed to know why those characters were admired and loved.  How can they prove themselves if we never know?  Eh, nevermind.  It’s all meaningless, right?  I never found the redemption I stuck around through four books to find.  If you find it, let me know.

I also found myself very confused about the books’ views of spirituality and religion.  There is a devil, but there is no God.  There are demons, there are people born with magic powers, there is voo-doo and it’s real and it works, but everything else is a waste of time.  One example I can give is that Ethan’s surrogate mama, Amma, practices voo-doo, which book one says is used for good and the dark part is a bad representation of it, but she also religiously attends a Christian church — though she never prays or has anything to say about the power of Christ.  I think it’s book three where there’s a funeral service that Amma gives a beautiful eulogy — she reads a powerful old hymn.  The words are amazingly meaningful for the context, but in the following pages the characters miss their meaning so entirely I wonder what the point was of including it.  Oh, wait…that’s right.  Meaningless.

I guess I can at least say I’m in the know about the content before the film franchise rolled out and that it was good to spend time with written words on a page.  But I honestly can’t go much further than that.  Please feel free to get the books (for free) from your local library to read for yourself.  I’m rooting for the film, and I do plan to see it…later.  After all, it’s entirely possible the filmmakers did a better job of storytelling.

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