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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Review: Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon

I still have mixed feelings over this book.

I wanted to love my reading experience for this book more than I did, but try as I might, some things just didn't work out for me.

Title: Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon
Pages: 480
Release Date: September 21st 2010
Published by: Hyperion Book CH
Source: Borrowed
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository


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.

For a book that had a promising and unique plot, Dead Beautiful is lacking in a few places. It didn't quite provide the thrill one normally gets when reading a 'dark and mysterious book', and there are a lot of characters that are easily forgettable.

Dead Beautiful, as a whole, has good potential. I had to admit that I struggled with a lot of elements in the first one hundred pages of this book. It dragged on for too long and I wondered when the plot will move on. Also, my instant dislike of Renee is one of the things that made it hard for me to get through. I've tried to understood her character as a girl who is mourning for her parents, and struggling to move forward with her life, but she comes off as a spoiled brat to me. Renee, being a fearless and smart girl, had a hard time figuring out a lot of the things going on around her, ironic considering how strong her character was being portrayed to be.

I didn't mind that she was inexplicably drawn to Dante, guessing right from the start the connection between them, and relishing the fact that I was right. You have a girl who speaks what's on her mind, fearless and challenging, and a boy, aloof and secretive with cold hands, possessing amazing beauty, doesn't feel the cold and doesn't get hungry and generally pulls away from everyone else, but not Renee? It's a nice set-up for a dark mystery novel.

In some ways, Dead Beautiful was predictable, but there's something in the lethargic pace that will challenge you to keep on reading.

It did, however got better halfway. The book became true to it's title and gave that creepy feeling, where you know you're just reading about something dark, ominous, and mysterious. The setting, Attica Falls, a secluded place almost cut off from the rest of the world, provided a nice backdrop that made the creepiness factor believable. I did like how Yvonne Woon managed to hold off that key that will make the whole story click to the last moment. I also liked the many historical references that made the foundation of the story quite solid.

I didn't feel as indifferent as I thought I would be, because the ending, though rushed, considering how much build-up there was, made me feel a bit sad. If there was one thing I enjoyed in this book, it was the love between Renee and Dante, tragic and beautiful. The choice Renee made did make quite an impression on me, and I felt that it did make a strong impact on the story, but to get there, you have to struggle quite a few times before getting to the end.

Usually when I read books, I try not to think of others with a similar theme and let myself think until the end that it has it's own identity. Dead Beautiful is somewhat reminiscent of Kimberly Derting's The Body Finder and Kristi Cook's Haven.

Fans of YA paranormal novels would love this somewhat heartbreaking story of love, mystery, life and death.

I'm giving this 3.5 stars.

My rating

Content (plot, story flow, character):

Okay: Liked, but The Goddess demands more!

Book Cover:

Yes - The Goddess Approves!


  1. Aww. A flawed but good novel. I've read mixed reviews including yours now. I'm happy that you finished it to 'experience' the ending. It made enduring the first hundred pages or so worth it, yes? Great review! Very justified. :) Arcadia Falls sounds like a nice name for a distant place by the way!

  2. Yeah, the novel itself is good, but it could've been better if the writing improved in a bit of places. Looking back, yeah, I think arriving to the ending was worth going through the first hundred pages. XD


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