Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray


Gemma Doyle's mother dies under suspicious circumstances in India, and with her father slowly falling apart, her family decides to enroll her in a girl's school in England. The school's purpose is to groom its upper class girls for successful marriages and the lower class girls to become governesses, but it harbors dark secrets surrounding its past students and faculty. Gemma knows all about secrets since she has a few of her own. She has been having visions ever since the day her mother died. As Gemma struggles to try to fit in with the other girls and understand the purpose of her visions, she forms a strange bond with three fellow students. Their discovery of the school's secrets will lead them down a path of self-discovery and tragedy that will change their lives forever.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray is a classic waiting to happen. It's a unique mash-up of Twilight and Harry Potter that takes place in Victorian England. Sounds like a crazy combination, right? Wrong. The supernatural elements in the book are interesting, but unnecessary. What will really grab your attention is the relationship between Gemma and her three friends. Given the inital descriptions of these girls, you would think they have nothing in common, and yet they become close friends. As the story progresses, you discover that the common link between the girls is their powerlessness to control their fate. It sucks to be a girl in the Victorian Age. The frustrations and sadness that the girls experience as they cope with their dysfunctional families and attempt to fight their fate are so genuine that I felt like I was the one drowning under the weight of their desperation. The best part... there are two more books that pick up where this one left off. Yeah!

BEST FEATURE: The opening chapter where Gemma's mother dies. The mother's death isn't half as devastating as what turned out to be Gemma's last words to her mother. Wow.

WORST FEATURE: The pacing. The story builds so slowly that things really start dragging in the mid-section. Of course, several classics I was forced to read in literature class were guilty of the same charge and still live on.

PARENTAL WARNING: minor violence and sexual content; appropriate for teens

MY RATING: 4.5 - So close, but not quite. When my daughter comes of age, this is going on her reading list.

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