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Review: Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon

D e a d  B e a u t i f u l by Yvonne Woon
Release Date: 9/21/10 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Hyperion Books CH
Age Group: Young Adult (13+)
Pages: 480
Source: Public/Local Library
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kindle

Word Blurb: Intriguing, strange, and perplexing!
Synopsis- "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." Goodreads»»
My Thoughts: *Note: May not be spoiler-free.* So, as you can see, I've skipped the whole 'Quick Thinking' section that I normally add in in all of my blog posts. Today I've decided to do away with that, mainly because I realized it's for the readers' convenience and not an outlet for me to really express what I'm feeling. So, I just want to get down to the heart of what my reading experience was like...

Dead Beautiful truly lives up to its name... The story itself is fascinating, ingenious really! I loved learning about Gottfried Academy, the myths, the history behind its founders and the reason for its opening... Basing the story around the Latin language, referring to it as "The Dead Language" and its significance to the story was intriguing in itself... Fitting the pieces together that make up the story was a fantastic process, simply because while you thought you pieced the whole big, seemingly unsolvable mystery behind the plot, new variables and uncovered information popped up, preventing the reader from truly grasping the entirety of the puzzle before the author was ready. Woon's descriptiveness, her imagery evoked wonder and amazement, granting me a clear picture of all that surrounded Renee. But, that was where my fascination ended...

Renee as a heroine didn't bode well with me. There was no connection between her and I. She didn't provoke any feelings of sympathy, happiness, or any real solid or tangible emotion. Instead, she basically annoyed me. She was really all about herself: finding out more about Dante, spending time with Dante, discovering the secrets lurking behind her parents deaths and the correlation to other student's deaths who died similarly. Never once did she show genuine concern about her other friends, the ones back home or the new ones she made at the academy. They were more like her personal walking sound boards, where she could dump her feelings and thoughts on them, but never consciously willing to return the favor. I'll be honest, that alone annoyed the hell out of me. The fact that her parents died right in the early chapters of the story, and that she was the one who located their bodies, didn't make me feel sorry for her, upset, or any other emotions really. Because there simply was no connection. Zip. Nada. I didn't get how she was feeling, being that I couldn't relate to her, and ultimately couldn't form a relationship with while reading as her story unfolded. 

And Renee wasn't the only character I felt a sense of disconnect with. Her other friends, Eleanor, Nathaniel, and Annie, didn't scream, Know me! Love me! Hate me! When I meet new characters, I like to feel something for them. Anything. (Apart from annoyance, obviously.) If the bad guy's bad, I want to dislike him/her, get angry at him/her. And vice versa. And like with Renee's friends, I couldn't care less about the bad guys because of that automatic detachment. Worse yet, I didn't care too much about the good guys, so why would it matter if the villains hurt them? I didn't feel attached to any of them, so why be upset if something goes wrong for the good guys? So, while the cast in this book was developed, I wouldn't sat they are enjoyable or necessarily fun to read about.

Even Dante, while ethereally beautiful, sadly, was not everything I had hoped. And I don't think he did anything wrong... But, again, there was this disconnect from me the reader and him. I didn't really learn about him, there wasn't much of a personality to him to fall for. So, I guess that explains why I didn't fall head over heels for him like I was so expecting to! Many times, when I read, there's that magical, instant love that takes place between the two main characters. And while that's fine and dandy, and I believe it exists, I want to see these characters fall for what's inside too. Know each other. Talk to each other. Connect. And even though along the way they might have in the array of conversations they have that the reader isn't privy to, that's just it. I want to be aware of them getting to know each other. That's probably the best part of a romance. It's definitely great to read about the mind-boggling, soul-searing kisses/makeout sessions/hot embraces, but in reality, a full on relationship doesn't last, doesn't survive on that alone... I need a little realism to my romance, so sue me!

The ending was... really bizarre. I must admit I'm at the point of confusion intermingled with dissatisfaction. (Highlight to read) So, Dante could resist kissing Renee, but she can't? And he wants to die for her, wasting the soul she just went through serious pains to give? Seriously?

I mentioned that Dead Beautiful firmly lives up to its name. Because it did. While the plot and the storyline were fantastic and beautifully written, the other aspects of it that would have made it great were flat, rendering it an okay read. 

Favorite Scene:
"'Why do you keep staring at me?' she muttered under her breath.
Her voice was soft and low, and I was surprised by how forthright she was. How could I not stare at her? Even here, the afternoon sun shone through the glass ceiling, illuminating her face in a warm, rosy light, as if she were an otherworldly being, something sent to me by fate. No, she could never know that I had watched her, wanted her, loved her from that very moment" (448).

Thanks for reading!