Friday, December 14, 2018

YA in Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty (Libba Bray)

This post will essentially be Spoiler Free, however comments by other users may possibly contain information that spoils portions of the plot, so read at them your own risk. This book is the eleventh one that I've completed for my 2018 TBR Challenge. One more to go!

What it's about:

After the mysterious death of her mother, Gemma Doyle is whisked away from her home in India to the one place she has always desired to go - London, England. Immediately enrolled in Spence Academy boarding school, Gemma starts having strange and terrifying visions that she can't control. As Gemma learns more about what is happening to her, she discovers that her world is not exactly as she thought it was - that evil is lurking...and wants to find her desperately.

Why it's worth a read:
  • An introduction to Gothic fiction for teenagers, this is a great way to see if Gothic themes and ideas appeal to you, or if you want to avoid them completely. It is mild in its Gothic atmosphere, and is a safe way to try it out.
  • Has the cool elements of a fantasy environment within the real world, but only some people are able to witness/experience it. This idea is similar to books like The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.
  • Each character, good or bad, has a history that defines them. This is quite clear, and  well laid-out. Those that you didn't like, you come to have sympathy for, and/or at least understand their motivations.
  • This book isn't too difficult to follow. It has some interesting elements to it in the world-building aspects, but it isn't so complex that you need to keep flipping back and forth to an index. It makes it a nice read to be able to relax with, rather than it feeling like effort.
  • The twists near the end are amazing, and totally worth it. I really loved where she went with the whole thing - she even had me surprised!
Where it disappoints:
  • At some points the appropriate target age for this book feels like 13+, while other moments feel like 16+. It feels a bit disjointed at times, and there are scenes that I wouldn't want a young child reading, although most would be completely fine.
  • It takes most of the way through the book for it to be exciting. The first chunk of the book features a rather petulant child, surrounded by irritating people whom she complains about. Then, she somehow becomes friends with these people and they suddenly aren't horrible? The main character never really seems to grow up, however. In about the last third of the book was where I found myself to be interested.
  • Nothing really went in-depth enough to allow you to become invested in the world. The fantasy and Gothic elements are present, but it feels like they are sometimes an afterthought rather than crucial to the story. Not that this is bad exactly, but it leaves the reader feeling a little unsure of the story.
Final Thoughts:

Overall, I really just didn't care when reading this book. It's a big shame really, because I had been looking forward to reading it for a few years. Perhaps that was the issue - that I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it when I was younger, or before reading other books that have defined this sort of style. It's not a bad book, and I don't want to portray that, but it really wasn't for me. I was able to finish it though, and didn't find it painful to get through - I just never cared, and found the characters rather silly and hypocritical.

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