Beautiful creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

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Penguin, 2010. ISBN 9780141326085.
Beautiful darkness. Penguin, 2010. ISBN 9780141326092.
(Age 13+) Recommended for lovers of paranormal romance. Ethan Wate lives in the Deep South town of Gatlin and he can't wait to leave it - until Lena Duchannes comes to town. Lena is surrounded by mystery. She lives with the town's recluse, Macon Ravenwood, in a sinister mansion, and seems to have strange powers. Ethan is convinced she is the source of his nightmares and the strange song about the sixteenth moon and the sixteenth year when the Book will take what has been promised. Beautiful darkness follows on after a cliff-hanger of an ending.
The series captured my attention from the beginning as it is told in the first person by Ethan Wate, rather than the main female character. Ethan is a typical teen who plays sport, gets on with his peers, but secretly reads books and dreams of a wider world. He has been touched by disaster, his mother dying in an accident and his father locking himself away in his study to mourn. Lena too is an interesting character, who longs to be accepted as normal in the school, but finds that her powers keep her an outcast at school.
The most enjoyable part of the books for me, was the description of small town life in America's south. I was fascinated by the descriptions of the American Civil war, the re-enactment of battles and most of all the way people lived in Gatlin. Ethan's aunts are described in a touching but humorous way, and Ammy, the Wate's housekeeper, who is obsessed with crosswords, is a joy to read about.
Needless to say, there is plenty of Gothic suspense and romance, and although both books are long (over 500 pages each), the action and the character development kept me reading to the end. Both books are sure to appeal to readers who enjoyed the Twilight series or Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. References to To Kill a Mocking Bird and other literature abound and may lead readers to explore those books as well.
Pat Pledger