Monday, January 10, 2011

A Great and Terrible Beauty Review

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Publisher: 2003 by Delacorte Press
Hardback: 403 pages
Reading Level: Young Adult

Summary (from delacorte press):
It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?
 My Review:

I'm starting this review with a note to self: (Rane, please write reviews right after finishing the book, as you originally planned.) I had so much to say about a week ago. I thought to myself, sure, I'll can I forget? Has that ever happened to you? If it has, you can relate to my frustration. Here's some positive thinking:
Now, if only I can  make this come true
(the mental aspect, that is...not the physical lol).
My REAL review of A Great and Terrible Beauty:

The cover of this book drew me in every time I saw it sitting on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. It's the corset. There is something great and terrible about it, isn't there? The average book buyer will automatically note the book is set long ago, sometime before the twentieth century (1895 to be exact). Thinking a little deeper, we might recall that the corset sometimes represents the suppression of women, which ends up being a huge theme in this book.

In a good book, there has to be at least one huge compelling factor to keep a reader reading. In this book, it was the characters. Gemma Doyle, the heroine of the story, and her friends at Spence academy are vivid portraits of girls from the Victorian era. There's the girl whose parents are forcing her to marry a suitor as old as her father, the girl whose parents shipped her off to school and have forgotten she exists, and of course, the girl who has no parents at all and is the school's charity case. Then, there's Gemma, who's spoiled and self-centered but quickly snaps out of it after her mother's "suicide."

In this book there are four very different characters with one HUGE commonality. None of them trust the adults in their lives. I kept thinking "SPEAK UP," you poor girl. TELL your parents how you feel. SEEK help. But, then I remembered the cover of the book, the corset strapping the girl in, molding her waist--and her mind--to fit societies standards. A girl had to suppress her feelings and do what was expected, even if it's not what she wanted. It's no wonder these four friends become obsessed with the magical realm where they can make their wildest dreams come true, whether it be a handsome prince or a beautiful face.

I floated through this book in about a day. That says something. Not only is it well-written, but it's beautifully written. At this time, I don't have much to say about the magical realm the girls visit. Next week, I will post my second Monsters, Myths & Oddities post, which will take a closer look. That being said, a tighter ending to the book, and a plot that didn't fall a tiny bit flat, would have upped my overall score to a four.

I did enjoy this book, and if you haven't read it, I hope you do. To read more of my thoughts about A Great and Terrible Beauty, please see my Book Crazies post from last week.

Cover: 5/5
Plot: 3.5/5
Characters: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Ending: 3/5
Overall Rating: 3.5