Ethan dreams of escaping the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina until the day Lena, a Caster girl (a being with supernatural powers) and quite literally the girl of his dreams, arrives. Despite discouragement from just about everyone in town, Ethan befriends Lena and gets much more than he bargained for, including love, time travel and a quest to save Lena from being “claimed” for the dark side on the night of her 16th birthday.
Given the obvious similarities to Twilight, there was always a danger Beautiful Creatures would be written off as “just another paranormal romance”. That was the assumption I made, too, until I noticed the large number of Oscar winners and nominees attached to the movie (Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Viola Davis and writer/director Richard LaGravenese), which convinced me that there might be a bit more to the story than just that. Fortunately, I am one of those people who have to read the book before seeing the movie, because while the book of Beautiful Creatures exceeded my expectations, the movie left a lot to be desired.
The Book (2009 - Authors: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl)
Based on the first in a series of novels, Beautiful Creatures does, admittedly, feature a romance between a mortal boy and a Caster girl, but it is also a mystery; horror story; Civil War drama; and small town story in the vein of To Kill a Mockingbird (which the authors cite as one of the novels that inspired them).
The book is told from the point of view of sophomore Ethan Wate, whose father has locked himself away in his study ever since Ethan’s mother’s recent death, and who is now being raised entirely by Amma, his family’s housekeeper and local fortune teller. Ethan understands what it’s like to be different in a town where being the same is a way of life, and the parallels between his own life and Lena’s provide a means for readers to understand what it’s like to be a Caster living in a human world.
Coming in at almost 600 pages, the authors have plenty of time to develop all of their ideas and the book never seems to drag, in spite of its length.
The Movie (2013 - Stars: Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert)
Without spoiling anything, in the book, Lena and Ethan are both very much involved in the grand finale. In the movie, however, Ethan is completely removed from the action and Lena is left to fight the dark Casters alone. Given that Ethan is the story’s main character, this gives the film a very weak ending. I don’t have a problem with movies taking liberties with their source material, but if a movie is going to deviate from a book’s ending, it should, at least, try to improve on it.
The book, all the way. In fact, don’t even bother with the movie. Save your money and buy the book instead.