Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Gemma Doyle was raised in India in the late nineteenth century. After the mysterious death of her mother, Gemma is sent to the Spence Academy in England to finish her schooling and learn how to become a lady. Gripped by despair, guilt, and terrifying visions Gemma finds herself an outcast at the academy. She then befriends a group of Spence’s most powerful girls, and Gemma finds that she is able to control her visions and transfer herself and her friends to a supernatural world. It’s there she learns that she is connected to a group of powerful women known as the Order. Gemma must decide whether to trust her instincts and pursue her powers or listen to the warning of the mysterious young man that is following her.

A Great and Terrible Beauty is both a beautiful and frightening tale of young girls on the brink of womanhood and the choices they must make. As if toying with the supernatural wasn’t difficult enough, Gemma and her friends are faced with the decisions that every teenage girl must make. Confusion over boys, the pressures of school, and daily quarrels with each other can make the lives of the Spence girls seem downright dramatic.

Libba Bray creates loveable and sometimes despicable characters that are so true to reality they might have been modeled after our own high school friends. The character of Gemma is strong, independent, and utterly interesting. It was almost hard to believe she would struggle to make friends, since I wanted to call her up and have drinks (if not of course for the small obstacle that she is only sixteen and in fact not real). A Great and Terrible Beauty places these fantastic characters in a glowing green English countryside, throws in a little magic, and we find ourselves at the start of what is sure to be a wonderful adventure. Thank goodness there’s a sequel.

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