publication date: 2009
You know how people say, “Oh, the book was better than the movie.”? That was always my mantra. Although some movie adaptations were good, even great, the book was always better than the movie. Now, after reading Beautiful Creatures, I wonder if it isn’t whichever one I experience first is the one I think is better. Because in this case I watched the movie first and I, surprisingly, liked it better than the book.
I saw the movie and I thought it was a really fun YA story. I loved that it was set in the South, I loved that it was from the boy, Ethan Wate’s, point of view, I loved the chemistry between Ethan and his love interest, Lena Duchannes, and I loved that Lena’s character was feisty. Unlike the movie, the book only capitalized on 1 out of the 4: Lena was very feisty. My other favorite parts of the movie were basically abandoned. First, although the book was set in the South, rarely was a sense of mood or atmosphere invoked as in the movie. Second, the book was written from Ethan’s point of view, but the narration was generic and could just as easily have been from a young woman’s point of view. Third, the chemistry between Ethan and Lena in the book was lacking. I was always wondering in the back of my mind, “Why do these two like each other, again?”
I am not going to spend this entire review comparing the book and the movie. But, I do have one more comparison that was critical to my determination that the movie was better than the book. (I hate to give away any plot aspects in my reviews, but this honestly was such a big deal to me I feel like I have to warn others. So, very mild SPOILER ALERT although it is more for the movie than the book.) The end of the movie was so powerful. I was gasping for breath during the last minutes of the movie because of how effective the end was. In fact, immediately after finishing the movie, I was on the internet buying the book because I wanted to experience the end scene as a reader. Unfortunately, the end of the book is nothing like the end of the movie. And although the end of the book is suspenseful and climactic, it is in no way powerful. I was majorly disappointed.
Beautiful Creatures starts with Ethan, who wants more than anything to get out of his small hometown of Gatlin, South Carolina. But then he meets Lena, the strange new girl. Eventually, Ethan learns just how different Lena is, but by that point it’s too late: they’re falling for each other. Together, Ethan and Lena try to find a way to escape from Lena’s history, even as they learn that their relationship could be disastrous for both of them.
The best part of Beautiful Creatures was witnessing the two very human main characters experience young love. They fumbled around each other, afraid to ask for a date or call each other “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” And once the couple does finally admit their feelings, the authors dramatically and effectively convey Ethan’s longing for Lena.
Readers who enjoy YA fiction will find a lot to love about Beautiful Creatures, either the movie or the book. Probably if I had read the book first I would be recommending the book to you. But, as it is, if this all sounds intriguing to you, just go watch the movie.
3/6: more good than bad