Thursday, May 5, 2011
Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon
Is it just me, or does the girl on this cover look like Amy Pond?
Renee Winters finds her parents dead in the woods, surrounded by coins and with gauze stuffed in their mouths. Before she knows what is happening, she is whisked away to Gottfried Academy. Gottfried emphasizes classical learning, from philosophy to horticulture (I kept thinking about that Dorothy Parker quote, "You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think"). As often happens in these stories, Gottfried also contains Mysterious Secrets, secrets involving a mysterious death and cover up.
Who has time for Mysterious Secrets when there's brooding boys to chase? Renee's Edward Cullen is the alluring Dante. They start off with one of those verbal sparring matches that you just know are going to lead to kisses. Dante eventually offers to tutor Renee in Latin, as he is incredibly good at it. She enjoys being around him so much that she starts intentionally blowing quizzes to continue the tutoring (We've come so far! The dream is to make all boys think we are mentally incompetent). Still, there are some issues with Dante. He has freezing skin, he seems so old-fashioned, and he never kisses her on the mouth.
A great emphasis is placed upon Rene Descartes' fictional Seventh Meditation. Soon after its release, it was refuted by the church and every copy was burned. The Seventh Meditation deals with the undead. It mentions that all children, under 21, who die and are not properly interred will rise again, but without a soul. These children then have 21 years to find their proper soul, which was transferred to a baby born the day they died. If they find their soul, they kiss the person and live out a normal life. If they don't, their body rapidly deteriorates after the 21 year mark and they die. I find this concept to be terrifying. Signs that children are undead include cold skin, fluency in Latin, and awkward movement.
Not to give away too much, but it takes Renee a lo-o-ong time to connect any dots. It takes so long that I'm kind of suspicious of whether she failed those Latin quizzes on purpose. She's also kind of self-absorbed. She talks her roommate Eleanor's ear off about Dante and the Mysterious Secrets, but she never reciprocates. Eleanor goes missing at one point, and Renee doesn't even report it for two days because she, "Thought she was at the library." She kind of infuriated me with that one.
The parts of this book that I liked were: the boarding school, tying in real philosophy with the made up Seventh Meditation (I'm glad it isn't actually real, because then I would end up punching way more children than usual), the scene where Renee raids her mother's childhood closet, because I would love a closet full of vintage clothes and jewelry at my fingertips. On the other hand, I disliked: yet another retread of Twilight-esque storytelling, self-absorbed heroines, the super power of "finding dead stuff," that there is going to be a sequel, according to Wikipedia. I wouldn't normally mind, because everything has a sequel these days. The ending to Dead Beautiful just seemed very final, and I liked it that way. I'm nervous they're going to spoil that ending.