by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Summary: There were no surprises in Gatlin County.
At least, that's what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
This was the first book I checked out of my local library via Kindle, which I must say is a pretty awesome function and one I will definitely use again in the future.
I loved this book. The story is told from Ethan’s perspective, which I thoroughly enjoyed. While I’ve read plenty of YA from the male point of view, it isn’t something I normally come across in supernatural stories, so I loved the change. It was refreshing. The book was incredibly descriptive. Although it started out rather slowly, I felt like it flowed very well and I didn’t feel as if slow=boring. I felt like I was slowly being immersed in this small town and was able to understand the setting so well.
The setting was one that I truly enjoyed. I loved the South Carolinian references to places (since I’m from Charleston). I also loved the small town feel. While I’ve never grown up or lived in a small town that is also small minded, I realize they do exist. It didn’t bother me that the people in the town were prejudiced and backwards because I do know people like that and I think that literature is a direct reflection of people and who we are. I never felt like the authors were trying to portray the entire South as stupid and backwards and resistant to change and it wasn’t something I thought was offensive to the South (and I do live here, after all.) Perhaps the people of the small town were exaggerated to a degree, but I feel as if a town like this could and probably does exist. I also think it’s a crucial part of the storyline and creates an underlying theme of acceptance and open-mindedness, much like To Kill A Mockingbird, which is often referenced in this book.
Ethan was a wonderful narrator. Because he was part of the town and accepted, yet entirely bored with it, he was the perfect person to narrate this story and give us two sides of the coin. He’s drawn to Lena and can’t understand why the people of town are harassing her so much, yet he’s from there, so he is able to fully understand at the same time. And he has to make a decision to continue pursuing his relationship with Lena or to fit back into the mold he’s been in his whole life. I think this is yet another underlying theme that reflects society and it a major conflict in some of the best novels. A lot reviews I’ve seen mention that Ethan’s narration is much too feminine and a teen boy wouldn’t notice the things Ethan notices or care and he’s a little too sappy, but I disagree. I feel like narrating a story is a lot like writing a journal or thinking inner thoughts. Perhaps most teen boys wouldn’t EXPRESS noticing certain things or feeling a certain way, but I believe without a doubt they THINK them. I guess I don’t understand the generalization that only women look down on boring cheerleaders who think they are awesome with contempt and than men would jump all over it and not care. (end rant).
This book was magical and enchanting with a dark and gothic feel to it. While it wasn’t action packed, I didn’t feel like it had to be in order to be thoroughly engaging. Each character was developed and they all interested me in many ways. Macon was one of my favorites, since he was the town recluse in his gothic mansion, but I also loved Amma, who brought Southern superstition and charm to the table. I was a bit disappointed with the way Ethan’s dad’s character was left sort of half explored, but I feel like there’s a lot more left to do with him that will be covered in the rest of the series.
One of the most interesting things about this book (to me) is the love story. While it’s an important aspect to the plot, I didn’t feel like this was a romance. While much time was spent in the building of the relationship, it didn’t feel like a romance. I’m not really sure how to explain why I feel this way. The connection between Ethan and Lena was done well and believable and there is no argument that they got closer as the story progressed, yet it wasn’t one of those romances that leave me rolling my eyes. I felt like it all happened so naturally.
I loved Lena as a character. I thought she was smart and creative and introverted in ways that I can connect with. While I thought she was a bit dramatic, I imagine any Caster who is waiting for impending doom on her 16th birthday would be dramatic and freaked out about it, so it didn’t aggravate me that she was so worried about things.
This book is long. It seems to be a problem for a lot of people, but it didn’t bother me at all. Because it was long and not fast paced, I suppose it could be difficult to get through for some people, but I can’t relate to that at all. This was a story that was so complex, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. It was a love story, a paranormal and mysterious book, a story about secrets, a story about taking chances, acceptance, adventure, identity, and coping with the loss of family members. I would definitely recommend this book to others.