by Anna-Marie McLemore
read in February 2018
format: physical ARC (thanks to giveaway)
This is a spoiler-free review!
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.
I am sad that Wild Beauty didn’t live up to the hype for me. I had absolutely expected to love this, but I was also apprehensive because I’m not familiar with magical realism. There is nothing wrong with this novel, but I felt rather indifferent about it…
From the very first chapter, I was confused. I never grew accustomed to the flowery writing. I don’t like analysing the books I read, hence why I don’t read poetry and classics. I have the feeling as if I didn’t fully absorb the story because of this. I found myself skimming and re-reading sentences, which is really unfortunate.
My favourite part of Wild Beauty was definitely the characters. Fel was so precious and I’m usually not swooned by allocishet male characters, so kudos to McLemore! The bond between the Nomeolvides cousins was beautiful, though I would’ve liked to see more interactions with the mothers and grandmothers as well.
This book is filled with bisexual girls and there is also a gay male side character. We find out that these sexualities aren’t understood by everyone, but it’s not a big deal for these characters. They are unapologetically queer; there was no drama involved.
I am cisgender so I am not the best person to judge this, but I thought the book was a bit cissexist at times, talking solely about “boys and girls” in reference to romantic partners.
content and trigger warning for underage drinking, Christianity, scars caused by lashes, physical violence, grief, mentions of racism (challenged), mentions of anti-gay violence (challenged), cissexist language, kissing without explicit consent
Though Wild Beauty isn’t going to be very memorable for me, I would still recommend this book to others because of its diversity (queer and brown Latinx characters), the praise it has received and the fact that I did enjoy reading it. I definitely plan on reading this author’s other work and I hope I will get used to her writing style.
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