Title: Dead Beautiful
Author: Yvonne Woon
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
May Contain Spoilers
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.
Wow. Dead Beautiful is a book that initially had no appeal for me, mainly because of the cover. The barefoot girl, with her black cloak and green surroundings, reminds me of something that belongs in Lord of the Rings. Every time I look at the cover, I think she resembles a hobbit, minus the hairy feet. This unfortunate association turned me off the book for a while, so I solved the problem by removing the dust jacket. Yay! No hobbit girls to distract me, and I was able to pick up the book and enjoy it.
I thought I was burned out on mysterious boarding schools, but Gottfried Academy showed me that there is still some life to be found in this particular plot device. After the tragic death of her parents, on her sixteenth birthday, no less, Renee Winters is shipped off to school, where she has to try to deal with her grief, fit into her new, weird surroundings, and fight off her attraction for Dante Berlin, a young man who has secrets. Dangerous secrets that just might get her killed.
Though the pacing was occasionally a little slower than I would have liked, this was an engrossing read. Renee has a lot of emotional issues that make her a sympathetic character. She is also talented. She is the one to discover her parents’ bodies, quite a feat considering that they both suffered from heart attacks in the middle of the forest. She seems to have a grisly knack for locating corpses, not exactly a pleasant skill to possess. I’m not sure that would look very impressive on a college entrance application.
Renee’s attraction to Dante is instant and intense. She can’t stop thinking about him. Normally stand-offish and aloof, he seems to let his defenses down when she’s around. Everything about him intrigues her, especially his relationship with the other students in Advanced Latin. Something terrible happened the year before, something that resulted in the death of another student, and Renee is bound and determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. The circumstances of the death are eerily similar to those of her parents’ and she can’t help but think that the events are somehow related.
I couldn’t put Dead Beautiful down once I started reading it. I wanted to know what happened next, and I stayed up way past my bedtime so I could keep turning the pages and find out. The characters are compelling, the surroundings suitably gothic, the dangers surrounding Renee creepily eerie. Best of all, the ending is perfect. I was totally convinced and totally satisfied when I reached the last page, and Dead Beautiful is one of those books that has earned a spot on the Keeper Shelf.
Review copy provided by publisher