Published September 2010 by Hyperion Book CH
First in a series
On the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Renée Winters was still an ordinary girl. She spent her summers at the beach, had the perfect best friend, and had just started dating the cutest guy at school. No one she’d ever known had died. But all that changes when she finds her parents dead in the Redwood Forest, in what appears to be a strange double murder.
After the funeral Renée’s wealthy grandfather sends her to Gottfried Academy, a remote and mysterious boarding school in Maine, where she finds herself studying subjects like Philosophy, Latin, and the “Crude Sciences.”
It’s there that she meets Dante Berlin, a handsome and elusive boy to whom she feels inexplicably drawn. As they grow closer, unexplainable things begin to happen, but Renée can’t stop herself from falling in love. It’s only when she discovers a dark tragedy in Gottfried’s past that she begins to wonder if the Academy is everything it seems.
Little does she know, Dante is the one hiding a dangerous secret, one that has him fearing for her life.
Dead Beautiful is both a compelling romance and thought-provoking read, bringing shocking new meaning to life, death, love, and the nature of the soul.
My Awesome Tootin*’ Review
So yesterday, while I was in the midst of being a good little worker bee, er, student and writing this awesome paper (okay, I’m not sure if it’s awesome right now but by the time I get done with it, it will be) when I had a stupid idea. What stupid idea, you may ask? Well, I have been “reading” this book for a few days now, you know, a page here, one page there but my idea (the stupid one) was to read this book in the breaks I took from writing said paper.
It was a stupid idea. I believe I have mentioned that oh about three times already so it must be true. The thing is, my brain was (it still is) in hyper critical mode, overthinking every single thing, just in case I miss something VERY IMPORTANT (it deserves capslock) that I can develop into an idea. So when I switch from paper to book, I carry this mindset with me and totally ruin the reading experience because I am now critically analyzing everything. So long rant short, sorry.
On to the book.
Let’s start with the cover. It makes me laugh. No honestly. The cape she’s wearing makes me feel like it’s a little girl dressing up as Count Dracula and I was totally expecting vamps in the book. I was wrong but it wasn’t far from the truth. And the model’s hairstyle is totally…fail. Those bangs are…well, I think they should rest in peace.
The story. Hmmmmmm. Let me tell you what the story reminded me of.
1. Twilight. (She meets the guy, is almost electrocuted by his touch. But there’s more. She meets him in “Crude Sciences” which everyone knows is another word for Biology. He is her lab partner. He is cold and haughty the first day and then all of a sudden, he wants to be friends. Sounds familiar right? Hey, I read the first book.)
2. Vampire Academy. Well, before Rose realized that she was a Dhampir – okay, that never happened but still, it had the same feeling about it.
The book felt like it was cobbled together by taking different parts of many other books. Not necessarily a negative thing but the fact that the parallelisms between it and Twilight were so obviously took off marks where originality is concerned. Couldn’t they have met in, oh I don’t know, English class?
I remained largely unimpressed by any of the characters in the novel. I didn’t like Renee at all. More times than not I felt there was no substance to her. She had no depth and God, she was so selfish. Her roommate and perhaps closest friend at the school, Elenor is clearly having trouble and instead of asking her about it, she’s upset that the girl is not around because she wanted to talk about her problems. Ergh. Seriously. Ergh. The love interest is a shadow, an echo of many other silent, more beautiful than the most beautiful thing you have ever seen and you know, all those other fun things – that is to say, he’s like any other love-interest (Edward comes to mind). The side characters – I didn’t see the point of them because they weren’t developed and even if they were, the plot was one hot mess and their purpose remained ambiguous.
So I really liked the inclusion of Latin in the story. I thought that was interesting. And the manner in which the author brings in philosophers shows her obvious knowledge of them. I liked all that. However, what I didn’t like was the lack of logic. Yeah, it’s an original idea. Something akin to zombies but not quite. Okay, this is going to be spoilery so STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK.
Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Anyway, so according to the author, when children die and aren’t buried, their souls leave the body, but the body remains “alive” and rises after nine days. After that they have 21 years to find their “soul” because when they die the first time, their soul are given to some other baby being born. So, they find the person who has their soul, smooch them and get their souls back – leaving the other person quite dead. Get that?
Every other book I have read has asked me to suspend my belief (other book in the Paranormal genre) and it has been easy to do because even if the idea is way out in the land of masked Martians, it still retains some sort of logic that makes believing if not easy than acceptable. This, I simply could not believe. In fact, my conscience was cackling like a hyena on coffee. A way to tell these Empty Bodies from Full Bodies, uh, humans, was the fact that the Empty Bodies would suddenly be proficient in Latin. I’m sorry but is the author suggesting that only European children die and then wake up? Is it a selective un-deadening? What about a little girl in India who keels over one day from lack of food. Does she not wake up? And if she does, will she speak in Latin? A language she has never heard of before. And what about places where there’s famine, hunger, war, where kids are dead in large numbers. Do they not wake up and wander around? Maybe I question things too much but I just couldn’t get my brain to believe it.
I think Ms. Woon has a beautiful turn of phrase. There are some phrases that I wrote down (because I was being a citing monster at the time) that I quite liked. Remember how Edward has a velvet voice? Well, Dante has a “buttery voice.” I am telling you, I’ll take buttery over velvet any day. Buttery reminds me of popcorn and if I had a guy who sounded like popcorn, I’d take him to the movies.
Oh that was awful but I still laughed. Haha.
She also mentioned “vacant banter” that she and her friends engaged in. I think that’s an interesting way to say that they talking about nothing important.
It was horrible. I sort of expected it but still, it was horrid. I didn’t see the point of it. I won’t give it away but I promise you, you will feel the same way. If it was meant to be a cliffhanger, well it had the exact opposite effect because it just made me decide not to read the next one in the series.
I didn’t hate it but I didn’t like it either. The book needed a lot more work plot wise. Of course this is just my opinion and no one is obligated to follow it. I think the author herself has a lot of potential, as I said, her descriptions are beautiful and if I could read just her descriptions and ignore the story, it would be awesome. Would I recommend it to you? No. Do I suggest you read it and formulate your own opinion? Of course. (Why should I suffer alone? :P)
*I don’t know what “Tootin’” exactly means in this case but my friend used the word the other day and I’ve been wanting to using it ever since.