Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon
Dead Beautiful series, bk 1. Disney-Hyperion, 2010. ISBN
(Age 14+) Paranormal. Romance. Death. When Renee Winters finds her parents dead in the Redwood Forest she is devastated. Although the police believe that heart attacks caused their deaths, Renee knows that the gauze that was in their mouths and the coins scattered around their bodies points to murder. After the funeral, Renee's grandfather sends her off to Gottfried Academy, an elite boarding school where existential subjects like Philosophy and strange ways of looking at Horticulture are studied. There she meets Dante Berlin, a strange aloof boy whom she is inexplicably drawn to. As she begins to adjust to boarding school, danger looms and the curse that hangs over Gottfried Academy makes her fear for her life and the life of her friends.
For readers of paranormal romances there will be many familiar situations in Dead Beautiful: death of parents, a mysterious boarding school, brooding gorgeous boy and danger. However readers new to the genre will soon be caught up in Renee's life as she comes to terms with the awful reality of her parents' death and begins to settle into the life of a boarding school. As she leaves her old life and friends behind, her fascination with Dante begins to take over. Woon gives the readers plenty of clues about what is happening to both Dante and Renee, as he refuses to kiss her on the lips and she goes numb when he touches her.
The mythology about the undead and the souls of children is quite fascinating and adds a deeper dimension to the plot. The references to the dead language Latin and Philosophy and the article Renee finds about the Curse of Gottfried Academy and her ability to find dead things all build up the suspense around the mystery of what is happening to students at Gottfried and why her parents died.
Teenage girls will find plenty to enjoy in this story: a riveting mystery, the undead, a mysterious boy, gloomy boarding school, and rumours of a strange headmistress and spooky monitors burying a student alive. They are sure to pick up the next two books in the series.