Review: Dead Beautiful

A haunting love story about desire, danger, and destiny.

After Renee Winters discovers her parents lying dead in California’s Redwood Forest in what appears to be a strange double murder, her grandfather sends her off to Gottfried Academy in Maine, a remote and mysterious high school dedicated to philosophy, “crude sciences,” and Latin: the Language of the Dead. It’s here she meets Dante, a dark and elusive student to whom she feels inexplicably drawn. As they get to know each other better, Dante can’t seem to control his attraction either, and their desires gradually deepen into a complex and dangerous romance. Dangerous because Dante is hiding a frightening secret. A secret so terrible, it has him fearing for Renee’s life.

Dante’s not the only one with secrets, though. Turns out Gottfried Academy has a few of its own… Like, how come students keep disappearing? Why are the prefect-like Monitors creeping around campus during the night? And what exactly are the Headmistress and Professors really up to? Renee is determined to find out why.

Dead Beautiful is both a compelling romance and thought-provoking read, bringing shocking new meaning to life, death, love, and the nature of the soul.–From Amazon

I began Dead Beautiful shortly after finishing Shadow Hills, and I worried for a while that the grieving girl meets mysterious, loner boy at strange, distant boarding school thing might be a little too similar. (When I put it that way, I think the worry was justifiable.) In so many ways, these should have felt like the same book, but there was something about Dead Beautiful that felt a little darker than Shadow Hills.

It, too, is a “smart” paranormal romance, rooted in the classics as Shadow Hills is in mythology. The romance between Renee and Dante does, in many ways, mirror that between Phe and Zach. Beyond the few lighter moments of romance, there are numerous philosophical issues; this book explores the repercussions of sacrificing yourself for love more thoroughly than most other paranormal romances I have read. The unveiling of secrets throughout the book is perfectly paced, and while I often had a good idea where the story was going, it still kept me guessing about the details until the last minute.

Dead Beautiful turned out to be a very different book than I anticipated. Despite its formulaic similarities to Shadow Hills and other paranormal romances in many parts, I still never quite saw the end coming. Yvonne Woon’s debut novel is a fascinating read that goes much faster than one would expect of a book its size. Woon’s world and its inhabitants are impressively described, with every facet of their oddities ultimately explained in meticulous detail.

For some reason, I have seen far less buzz for Dead Beautiful than I have for many other upcoming releases. I have no doubt, though, that once this gorgeous cover and intricately plotted story are unleashed, they will captivate many fans of the genre. Given the way the book left off, I also would not be surprised if there is a sequel in the works.

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2 Responses to "Review: Dead Beautiful"

  • Interesting and informative review. Thanks.

    1 Jim said this (September 9, 2010 at 12:24 AM)


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