Authors: Yvonne Woon
Release Date: September 21st, 2010
Pages: 464 (Hardcover)
Genre: YA | Paranormal | Fantasy
Series: Dead Beautiful #1
Read: from July 24 to 27, 2015
Source & Shelf: NetGalley | Kobo
ISBN: 9781423119562 (Hardcover)
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.
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.
Disclaimer: Thank you NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Dead Beautiful was such a great book I cannot believe it took me a while to finally pick it up. Although there were some similarities with Twilight and a bit of Harry Potter, I loved the concept of this book, the idea of dead people trying to find their soul and a school that prepares both dead people and human to live in harmony. Seriously, I had rather low expectations for this book but when I finished it, I was extremely surprised with how much I enjoyed it.
Renée Winters finds her parents dead in the woods on her sixteenth birthday. Since her grand-father is the only family left, she’s now under his guardianship and he soon sends her to Gottfried Academy, the same school her parents went to. Actually, there are several things from her parents past she doesn’t know, and becoming a student in this school makes her realise that she barely knows them. And then there’s Dante, a mysterious boy who immediately attracts her and they soon become romantically involved. Or as involved as Dante allows them to be for there’s something sinister about him that Renée can’t figure out.
And when she does, her whole life and past turn upside-down and everything she once knew, comes tumbling down.
When I mentioned that this book has some resemblances to both Twilight and Harry Potter, I mean that sometimes there were parts I felt unoriginal and that lacked something unique, picking up pieces from these two books. The relationship between Dante and Renée has its moments that were too Twilight-ish – the mysterious and dangerous boy trying to get the girl away from him. Actually, there was one of Dante’s speech that literally screamed Edward Cullen when he says he might be dangerous. And as for the Harry Potter bits, it has more to do with the school, boarding school in this case, environment than anything else. The way Yvonne Woon describe the academy and the classes reminded me a lot of Harry Potter.
However, despite these traits, this book has something makes it unique and makes me forget the similarities with other books: the concept of death. This book deals with death, with living a half-life, half-death and the search for souls. Latin also has a very important part in this book as the Language of the Dead and, I’ve always been interested in Latin, I found that connection simply amazing.
I loved the way Yvonne Woon managed to add both Dante, author, and Descartes, uniting them with the main character. After reading the book I marvelled at how clever it was of her to name them Renée (from René Descartes) and Dante (from Dante Alighieri, the author of Dante’s Inferno).
At first I didn’t particularly enjoyed Renée’s voice, the way she told the story. I admit that only after she met Dante and became aware of what was going on did I began to enjoy her character. She was a bit slow in creating a connection with the reader but it does happen later on. Even with what happens to her in the very first chapter, it was slightly hard for me to connect with her. Yes, I did felt bad for her since she lost both her parents in a very peculiar way, but she didn’t made me extremely sad for her loss.
As for Dante, it was one of those characters who immediately struck you with his sense of humour, his mysteriousness and darkness. Until Renée finds the truth about him you want more and more of him. You want to know why he won’t kiss her, why his touch is always cold, why Renée’s skin and body feels numb whenever he touched her. And why he’s in a advanced Latin class with these weird group of people who are part of his past – a mysterious past. Really, mysterious is basically the certain word for him.
But the character I adored was Eleanor. At first you think she’s going to be this shallow character who will make Renée’s life a living hell or something but she ends up being this amazing character that becomes an important piece of the puzzle and a great friend of Renée. And with what happened to her in the middle of the book, I’m certainly curious to know what’s going to happen.
And speaking of what’s going to happen… the ending!!! That cliffhanger had me on edge!! It certainly makes you super eager to pick up the second book with what happened and all… I’m still not completely sure of what happened to be honest. It all happened a little bit too fast but that was the brilliancy of it. It didn’t gave it all away, only enough to make you thirsty for Life Eternal.
Dead Beautiful was indeed an amazing surprise and a very good book. If you just let you mind open and ignore the fact that certain parts feel like a rip-off of Twilight, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this world that Yvonne Woon created. Everything is connected and it also makes you consider death in a different way. I am really excited for the sequel.