Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dead Beautiful ~ Yvonne Woon

Dead Beautiful (Dead Beautiful, #1)

*Spoilers*  OK, so I have mixed feelings about this book which I will do my best to explain.  I rated it 2 out of 5 stars because while I'm not opposed to books about death and dying, this entire book is about the subject which borders on the morbid.  I'm also not a big fan of the Undead, Soulless, Zombie types even if they are tall, dark, incredibly beautiful and irresistibly romantic.  I DO think this book was extremely well written and I actually enjoyed the inclusion of the Latin and Philosophy the likes of which I hadn't seen since my college days.

Renee is sent away to boarding school in Maine by her grandfather after the sudden and mysterious death of her parents on her 16th birthday.  At the Gottfried Academy, she encounters many new people, classes (Latin, Philosophy, Horticulture and Crude Sciences) and experiences.  Her roommate, Eleanor is a popular girl and a gossip who seems to know everything about everyone thanks in part to her older brother, Brandon who is a Monitor.  (Monitor's are a select group of older students whose job it is to oversee and represent the entire student body to the HeadMaster and faculty)

Nathaniel is a nerdy boy who Renee meets and quickly becomes friends with.  He's awkward but kind and willing to help her adjust to her new life away at school as much as he can.

Then there's Dante... he's is the tall, dark and beautiful boy full of mystery and hotness (or coldness in this case) who surprises everyone with his openness with Renee.  Until she shows up at school, he'd been pretty much a loner - the one all the girls swoon over but are afraid to speak too.  He and Renee seem to have a connection that neither can deny but Renee can sense there's more to him then Dante is letting on.  He's very romantic and while things between the two get Renee's heart racing, it's hard to take things too far since he won't even kiss her on the lips.  She thinks he's afraid of something called the Basium Mortis (death kiss) which several students have been rumored to have died from but he won't talk about it.

Strange things begin to happen at the school and when Renee stumbles across an old book telling about the schools history, she discovers there may be more to what's going on than she ever imagined.  She also learns that there's more to her own family's history and their involvement with the Gottfried school than her parents ever told her.  Her grandfather is the one who confirms her suspicions about the Undead/Zombies and how what role they play in the success of the school.  When he tells her that she herself is a Monitor (whose real job is not just to represent the student body but to kill the Undead) he explains how he views this as a gift or a talent but that she is the one who chooses how to use what she's been given.

Pg 426 ~  My grandfather interrupted my thoughts. "Renee, this is what you were born to do.  It will always be inside of you, no matter how much you fight it.  Any talent can be used for both good and evil.  If you think it's unfair, then use your talents to make it fair.  Work with what you have. "

So, now she has choices to make...choices about herself, her friends (many of whom aren't even alive in the way we think of "alive") and her relationship with Dante.  How far is she willing to go to save him?  Is she willing to risk her own life, her own soul for the one she loves?  She and Dante give new meaning to the term "soul mate" or shared soul.

I think the thing that made me most uncomfortable with this story was the idea of undead people, zombies, roaming around trying to steal people's souls.  I know it's a work of fiction but still.  It reminded me of why I didn't enjoy Philosophy very much in college, because there was too much "thinking" and not enough faith.
(I prefer to believe that we all only get one soul, there is life after death and we take our souls with us when we go.)

Besides, all that existential thinking makes my brain hurt which is very distracting...this in turn would make me a prime target for a life taking, soul stealing, beautiful zombie boy to go in for a Basium Mortis (death kiss).

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