Beautiful Creatures - Margaret Stohl, Kami Garcia The wife one of my friends really likes this series, and that's how I found out about it. This was before the movie, and generally I'm pretty clueless when it comes to what's popular and making the rounds in the world of young adult fiction unless it walks right up and smacks me in the face, so the only thing I knew about Beautiful Creatures at the time was that it's "like Twlight, but with witches".

After having read this, I can see why. Our narrator and protagonist Ethan Wate has spent his whole life in the quiet southern town of Gatlin, just itching for the day he can pack up and leave it all behind. Everything changes, however, when Lena Duchannes arrives and turns his world upside down. There's something strange and magical about beautiful Lena, and even though she is shunned by the townspeople and all the other kids at school, Ethan finds himself inexplicably drawn to her.

Right there, you already have the bulk of your usual young adult paranormal romance tropes: a new girl, a small town, a tale of undying love between two teenagers that transcends all differences even when it seems like the whole world is trying to keep them apart. It's not like I expected anything different when I signed up for this, so I have to say the book did a good job in delivering everything it was meant to, and I can see why it's so popular in its genre. But even putting aside the clichés, there were a few things that bothered me, which is why I gave it an average rating.

First of all, despite the book reading like your typical YA paranormal romance, I do have to give my kudos to the authors for trying to do a couple things differently. Attempts to break the mold or shake things up should always be applauded; the problem, however, is whether or not these decisions paid off.

Of course, the biggie is the male point-of-view. It's very rare to see this these days, considering the vast majority of readers of this genre are female. There's a fine balance to strike when telling a story from the perspective of a teenage boy, because you want your target audience to relate to him but at the same time he has to be realistic. Thing is, I don't think the book managed to find this balance. Ethan Wate simply doesn't act or sound believable as a high school sophomore male; instead, he reads more like what a teenage girl would WANT their high school sophomore boyfriend to act and sound like.

It's especially obvious when you consider Ethan is the only character who seems different in a book otherwise filled with blatant stereotypes. I thought the southern setting was kind of neat, but of course it had to be filled with every shameless cliché, including the town being full of ignorant, prejudiced and backwards-thinking people -- oh, except for Ethan and his learned family, because they're special. The high school also embodies every cliquey convention you can think of, mostly boiling down to the shallow jocks and cheerleaders who torment Lena for being an outsider. It's a wonder how Ethan lived his whole life in this context yet managed to rise above all that (but of course he does, he's perfect!), the guy sounds like a friggin' old man next to all his peers.

The second issue is the book's length. For the first installment in a new young adult series, deciding to make it almost 600 pages was probably a risky choice. It would be one thing if you had a big story to tell and lots to write about, but it's quite another when a quarter of the book is given to tedious back-and-forth and other such filler. I started getting the urge to skim around the halfway mark, and kept feeling like this until almost the very end when interesting things finally started to happen.

My biggest problem with the book, however, is probably Lena. In a word, she is infuriating. When she's not flying into histrionics, she's depressing with her insecurity and defeatist attitude. The things she says! "It's no use", "It's always going to be this way", "Nothing we ever do is going to matter", "You'll only make things worse" and other insufferable gems like that seem to be all she can add to conversations.

Ethan, bless your heart for caring, but since you're so perfect and special, you really ought to find a girl who can actually stand up for herself. Someone who won't give up before it's even started. Honestly, if a character doesn't even have the backbone to fight for the very things she so desperately wants, then why should I as the reader care enough to root for her?