Tag Archives: teen

A Great and Terrible Beauty – Review

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A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Age: Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Historical
Location: London

Gemma Doyle is different from the other girls at Spence Academy in London, England. Gemma is outspoken, brave and does not follow the typical Victorian etiquette required of women of her class. Gemma also carries with her a dark secret about the death of her mother, and strange powers of the supernatual that become more prevalent in her life after her 16th birthday. After witnessing to her mother’s self-inflicted death via a mysterious illusion while living in Bombay India, Gemma’s family relocates to their hometown of London, where Gemma attends Spence boarding school for girls of elite families. Gemma brings with her not only a deadly secret, but also a mysterious follower, warning Gemma to stay away from her illusions. Carrying the secret of her mother’s death, and mystical powers that are unexplained, Gemma slowly makes friends with the most powerful and popular girls in the school, introducing them into a world of magic, history and the supernatural. As their lives begin to form a new path with each other, so does the path of Gemma’s abilities to summon other realms and learn about her mother’s connection to an occult society called The Order and finally realize her true destiny.

At first, this book started out like a typical teen book, in fact it reminded me heavily of the movie, The Craft (anyone remember that movie?). The plots are incredibly similar, minus the time period. While the story line is not the most original mystic tale, Bray’s writing ability is wonderful and genuine. She does a good job of keeping in step with the Victorian era through dialogue, ideologies and nuances of the characters.  The story finally took on its one feel towards the later half when the history behind the Order started to be explained. I felt that for a moment, boarding schools in Victorian England could be more privy to occult happenings than anything contemporary. There is something intangible about the Victorian period that lends itself easily to these types of gothic novels, and Bray does a good job of harnessing this resource. The characters are well drawn out, and even the supporting cast are just as colorful and interesting as the main four girls. Each of the four girls has her own identity, but are tied together through a common theme in their families, being damaged in some way be it emotional, mental of physical.

While Gemma is the star of the show, I thought Felicity stole each scene with her zeal, her aura and her ability to be snide and caring, like a rose with sharp thorns.  I would have liked to learn more about Ann, the scholorship student sent to the school to be a governess, unable to rise from her low ranks in Victorian society. Although Ann had a strong role in the beginning of the novel, her character faded away throughout the rest of the book.  The book is part of a reader’s circle, so there are some interesting discussion questions as well as an interview with the author at the end of the book. This book is the first of a series following Gemma Doyle’s experiences at Spence Academy.

I would suggest this book for teen girls age 16 and up, there is a lot to take in, the supernatural and plenty of sexual innuendos and a few fairly subtle erotic scenes. Its a great Victorian-gothic novel that I think even adults will enjoy.

A Great and Terrible Beauty
by Libba Bray
Delacorte Press, 2003
ISBN 0385732314
403 pages


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Specials – Review


If you haven’t read Uglies, or Pretties, or haven’t finished either, please skip this post, I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone****

Tally Youngblood is now a member of Special Circumstances. Not just a typical Special, Tally is a special Special, part of an elite group made up of the Cutters clique that formed at the end of Pretties. Shay is now the ringleader, having forced Tally to become a Special. As a Special, Tally has been surgically refitted with a body of steel, nails as hard as diamonds and a cruel-beauty to enforce the law of the land. In Specials, Tally is now faced with the decisions to finally end the Smoke and its purpose, forced now to oppose the side she once faught so ardently to keep alive and protect.

This book definately takes the story to a whole new level. It is more edgy and more mature than the first two, but still has the same mood and aura that Uglies and Pretties emit. Once again, Tally is changed into a newer, better version against her will, and once again Tally’s internal struggle to be at peace with herself bleeds into the rest of the story. Guilt, fear and confusion mark the third book as Tally attempts to right past wrongs and understand just how large of an entity the City and Dr. Cable really are. The book starts at a running speed and does not let up until the end of the book. It is near impossible to find a perfect moment to put the book down.

I want to know if Westerfeld had the ending in mind when he started writing the trilogy? He did afterall know it would only be a trilogy. Each book picks up easily where the previous left off, it sort of feels that it was all written at once, and just chopped up for the sake of publishing. The trio is very cohesive and each books hints back to episodes of the previous. I wonder was a second reading of the series would bring? And what about the next book, Extras, a companion to the Uglies trilogy, I wonder where that will pick up?

This series is definitely one of my favorite reads for this year, I have high hopes for Westerfeld’s other titles, such as Peeps (about vampires).

by Scott Westerfeld
Simon and Schuster, 2006
ISBN 1416947957
372 pages


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