Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon
Released: September 2010
Publisher: Hyperion Books
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Synopsis: On the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Renée Winters was still an ordinary girl. She spent her summers at the beach, had the perfect best friend, and had just started dating the cutest guy at school. No one she’d ever known had died. But all that changes when she finds her parents dead in the Redwood Forest, in what appears to be a strange double murder.
After the funeral Renée’s wealthy grandfather sends her to Gottfried Academy, a remote and mysterious boarding school in Maine, where she finds herself studying subjects like Philosophy, Latin, and the “Crude Sciences.”
It’s there that she meets Dante Berlin, a handsome and elusive boy to whom she feels inexplicably drawn. As they grow closer, unexplainable things begin to happen, but Renée can’t stop herself from falling in love. It’s only when she discovers a dark tragedy in Gottfried’s past that she begins to wonder if the Academy is everything it seems. Little does she know, Dante is the one hiding a dangerous secret, one that has him fearing for her life.
Paranormal romance books are still flooding the market thanks to the Twilight series. It’s not my genre of choice mostly because of clichés and overdone love triangles with the main character always falling for the total creep. But, these are not the things that describe Yvonne Woon’s Dead Beautiful. Of all the paranormal romance books I’ve read, I have declared Dead Beautiful to be my favorite (thus far, at least).
Initially, I thought this book was yet another vampire love story, but I was wrong. So very wrong. Dead wrong (har har!). The Latin-rooted philosophy and “mythology” that were woven into the story made Dead Beautiful unique amongst other paranormal romance books. I say “mythology” because I believe Woon created it for her story, but she did so in a way that made it all seem like the myth had been around for centuries. And, as you can possibly guess from the title, death is a major subject throughout this book. This might be an unappealing subject for some, but I loved the spooky and foreboding atmosphere this created.
I did appreciate the romance in Dead Beautiful. I think the relationship between main character, Renee, and love interest, Dante, progressed pretty quickly. And it’s clear Renee is smitten with Dante, but it’s not overkill. It’s also apparent to the reader that Renee thinks about her friends and the world around her as much as she does about Dante. I would say it’s a breath of fresh air from many of the newly published young adult books regardless of genre. I would also have to say that for once I actually found the love interest to be swoon-worthy!
Dead Beautiful is equal parts romance and mystery, so the story had me guessing all the way through. There were several twists and turns that had me formulating my own ideas of what could possibly be next, but more often than not I was wrong! I found the mystery to be compelling, and I think this is what made the book such a page turner for me.
I did think the pacing of the story was a little off. There were times in the story that moved a little slow, but this I am okay with. I did think the ending was rushed, which left me feeling like something was missing. The first 470 pages were written so beautifully. I truly loved Woon’s writing style, and I have to admit, I am quite envious of it. Everything was written so vividly, and getting lost in the world Woon created was easy. However, the last 10 pages went by too quickly. I would say I was even left quite confused to the point where I had to re-read the ending to make sure I understood what had happened. Now, that being said, after I fully understood what happened, I thought the ending was absolutely perfect– definitely not the way I thought it would end (thank goodness!)
Overall, I loved this book. (Notice how I bold-faced and italicized “love”? Yea, that’s how much I loved it). I think it would be a great addition the bookshelves of lovers of the paranormal romance genre. In fact, it would be perfect for the shelves of those who aren’t so keen on the genre, like myself, too!