It’s been a while since my last post. I actually finished this book days ago, and am already halfway through its sequel. Saying I have had a long week is an understatement. It started with a car accident (where no one was hurt, including me). I have had many trips to the mechanic though and still need one more. My dad then had some more health complications, which will result in more scary surgery next week (so hopefully my next week will be better). Yesterday, I attended a funeral for my cousins’ grandmother (who I’m not related to). And, it’s been one crazy workweek with a lot of events going on. I’m glad I had some quality YA literature to keep me company this week, to say the least.
But enough about me; let’s talk Dead Beautiful. It’s about Renee Winters. The book starts on her 16th birthday. She’s in the car with her best friend, leaving the beach, when she senses something and has her friend pull over. She then runs through a forest, sensing that she needs to, and comes across the dead bodies of both her parents. And even though both her parents had coins on their eyes, and gauze in their mouths, their deaths were determined to be heart attacks.
Renee is then taken in by her wealthy grandfather (who had had a falling out with her parents many years earlier). And he sends her to Gottfried Academy, a fancy boarding school with strict dress codes, no electricity(!), and rules prohibiting any dating amongst the students. Renee is upset about her parents and knows something does not add up about them both dying from a heart attack at the same time. She soon learns that a student at the academy died the previous year, also from a heart attack, and goes on a hunt to find a connection.
Renee has a habit of getting into trouble at school and is continuously found outside of her dorm with Dante, the boy she falls head over heels for. He’s very lonely and almost never speaks to anyone, but immediately befriends Renee, and their connection is strong from almost the first day. He tutors her in Latin, and while she starts to fall for him, she also comes to realize how strange he is. Renee never really gets punished for all her late night escapades (searching for clues and spending time with Dante) because the teachers all seem to love her for the skills she has in her horticulture class, which is all about digging, planting, and finding the right soil. Renee is also very good at finding dead animals. They seem to turn up throughout the whole book.
The book in large part is about murder and mystery, and discovering why so many people around the academy seem to die from heart attacks. It does have a lot of soul mate type romance, but it gives new meaning to the term, soul mate. By the time, I’m almost positive this is another vampire series, I find out that it’s much more complicated than that. I might be spoiling things a little, but I feel I need to in effort to describe what makes the book unique amongst other supernatural YA books. Dante isn’t a vampire; he’s undead (sort of a mix between a vampire and a zombie). And the reason he is undead is because he died before the age of 21. Anyone who dies before they are 21 (aka: still a child), will come back to life if not buried under ground. And when they come back, they come back with almost no feeling (not taste, no smell, etc.). They don’t eat or sleep, and they generally just feel empty because they are missing their soul.
When a child dies (who’s not buried), their soul goes to someone being born at the exact moment of their death. And the myth is that if the undead child finds the new person who has their soul, and kisses them on the mouth, they will then get their own soul back, and another chance at life. But no one in all of history has been able to track down their soul. And to live longer than the 21 empty years granted to undead children, the undead can kiss anyone on the mouth, steal their souls and kill them, so they can live just a little bit longer.
Once Renee learns about the undead, I knew it described Dante, and I knew that she must have had his soul. The headmaster asked about her birthday earlier, and I was able to put two and two together way faster than Renee. But, that is okay. All this myth, all the mystery, all the new undead plot line, was so different and fun that Renee’s slowness didn’t really bother me too much. There’s a lot of history mixed in with myth here. I loved learning along with Renee about the history of burial. I loved reading what past philosophers said about immortality. I loved the concept of the school. I loved how similar Dante and Renee were, and how well they balanced each other. I enjoyed reading about Renee’s friends. And I found all the details about burial so fascinating and unique.
I didn’t originally think I was going to like this book because of the very rushed beginning. The scene where Renee finds her parents happened too quickly. I wanted more detail, more feeling about how exactly Renee felt to discover her parents. Instead that part was kind of summarized. And while Renee thinks back on that moment a lot in the future, I feel like that scene was too good and too important to rush over like that. I mean discovering the dead bodies of your parents is a YA gold mine. Why fast-forward to after the funeral?
But, I did end up loving this book. Though, I do think the main characters not being able to kiss each other on the mouth is a little overdone. It was not what I was expecting. It was so much better than what I was expecting. I give it an 8/10. And I’m already reading the sequel. I’ll let you know what I think of that one soon!