WILD BEAUTYAuthor: Anna-Marie McLemore
Source: ARC via Publisher
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Rating: 4/5 stars
Love grows such strange things.
For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book and decided to review it. This in no way impacts my opinion of the book.
Hi, I love Anna-Marie McLemore's books so it is probably not surprising that I also enjoyed WILD BEAUTY. However, if this was my introduction to her books, I'm not certain I would have picked up the rest. While still beautiful and imaginative and full of great representation and culture, it was way too slow to start for me and I found the side characters to be a little bland and similar. I know that the family was meant to feel as though the girls could be interchangeable but it was too much for me to really enjoy that aspect because I could never really differentiate between any of them.
I loved the main characters - Fel and Estrella. I liked switching between their perspectives and I think McLemore does a good job of getting into her character's heads and allowing the reader to do the same. I loved their passion for each other and their families. It was so nice to see a couple on screen worry about how the other's family would react to their relationship and want to be in good standing with them. I think sometimes authors forget to add in this detail or keep it just to parents but siblings approval is sometimes just as, if not more, important. This was done beautifully on screen.
As always, McLemore is amazing at writing magical realism and tying it together to a larger mythos. And I really enjoyed this one. As much as I loved the mermaid aspects of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, I think WILD BEAUTY probably had my favourite underlying magic/"curse" to it. I think we all worry about loving someone too much and causing them to leave us - and while this was a bit more extreme than that - I am glad to see that type of anxiety on page. Everyone can relate to all the characters in this one who worry about falling in and out of love with someone. I will say, however, that there is a bit of instalove in it but it works for this so I was semi-okay with it.
The downfall for me is two-fold. First, it was really slow to start - the first 20% or so didn't capture me the way I wanted it to. Beautifully written, but it felt like everything happened right away and then nothing happened at all. But it picked up again and for that I was grateful. Second, I wanted more development for the rest of the sisters and the family in general. I liked the glimpses we got into them, but it never felt like enough. And I think that might be because there were too many of them (4 other sisters, 5 mothers, 5 grandmothers, plus other characters), so we couldn't spend enough time with each of them. I almost would like spin-off novels to this that tell the same story from the other sisters's perspectives OR stories following the sisters in the future?? I want to be immersed in this family's life and I didn't get that from WILD BEAUTY. But these are minor things that didn't really detract from my reading.
Beautiful, lyrical, and imaginative - those three words describe every book Anna-Marie McLemore has written and WILD BEAUTY is no exception. Bisexual characters are on the main stage and not shamed for it. Gay girls are allowed to love freely and the main characters are rich and full of depth. You will get sucked into the world and not want to leave. Plus, the cover is absolutely gorgeous!