Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl--Animoto

Bibliography:  Garcia, K., & Stohl, M. (2009) Beautiful creatures. New York, NY:  Little, Brown and Company.

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 (Little, Brown and Company).

Tool:  Animoto

A video tool in which users create music video-like slide shows from uploaded JPEG images.  Very easy to create elegant picture shows, but if you want text in your video, it is best to create slides in PowerPoint and save them as JPEG files. All the slides in the video below were created in PowerPoint first, saved as .jpg, and uploaded into Animoto.

For step-by-step instructions on how to create an Animoto video slideshow, as well as how to find Creative Commons-licensed materials to include in your book trailers, please see the site Visual Storytelling Basics.

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

The Southern gothic genre, an early twentieth-century literary phenomenon popularized by such authors as William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor, is characterized by its use of horror and supernatural elements as mechanisms to examine/criticize existing social constructs. Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, however, were probably absent in lit class the day it was covered. Beautiful Creatures is billed as a Southern gothic, and while it does have gothic elements --decrepit mansions, mysterious girls, Byronic heroes--in no way can this novel be classified as anything beyond paranormal romance.

Ethan Wate, the narrator, is filled with social criticism, however, all of it directed toward the caricatures inhabiting his small town, which is so hackneyed that the authors may well have named it Podunk in their first draft. It is doubtful, for instance, that employees of the United States Postal Service open and read recipients’ mail, even if the postal worker in question is “Suth-en.” Also, despite the sub-Mason-Dixon Line environment in which Ethan’s fellow townsfolk delight in Civil War reenactments, ethnicity does not seem to be an issue, and it is not until approximately ¾ of the way through the 563-page tome that readers are informed that a main character is African-American. To leave out such a detail in such a setting is just poor storytelling. To say that Ethan’s hoodoo-performing housekeeper is a woman of color isn’t racist--it helps the reader flesh out her character. Indeed, it seems that in their concentrated effort to avoid the Southern stigma of racism, Garcia and Stohl have instituted just about every other stereotype of Southern culture, resulting in an almost offensive portrait of a region and its people.

Admittedly, it is refreshing for this genre--that would be paranormal romance, not Southern gothic--to have a male narrator and a supernatural female love interest. Rather than the weak-willed heroine typical of these novels, Ethan has a funny and enjoyable voice when not dogging on Gatlin's resident simpletons, and Lena is a woman with her own agenda and greater problems outside her relationship. Beautiful Creatures would have been far more enjoyable had it been marketed strictly as a YA romance without the added literary expectation. I suppose that is the fault of the publisher. For readers who are still hungry after devouring the Twilight saga and the Blue Bloods series, this first book in the Caster Chronicles is a good recommendation, despite its floundering attempt to ingratiate itself into a genre far more complex than what Garcia and Stohl deliver. Grades 7+.


  1. I loved this book, Amma was funny and i didn't know she was black....does it really matter? She was funny and almost beat a switch into him. I loved Lena but i don't remember what her physco problem was.... Lena was a little depressing and all over the lace when it came to her emotions for Ethan but i really enjoyed the boo over all age 12+

  2. This was the best book ever, it did get confusing in the last part but It's my favorite book!