Summary: “A Great and Terrible Beauty” by Libba Bray: Out of the books I have read so far, I think I enjoyed this one the most. This is probably because it is more fantastical/paranormal than the others. So here goes: Our main character, Gemma, lives in a time many many years before ours (1895) and has started having visions. Her very first vision comes just before her mother commits suicide. Thereafter, Gemma is forced to go to a type of boarding school where they are trained to be real ladies suited for marriage. Here, Gemma meets Pipper, as well as other girls who make a tight inner circle. Together, they learn about Mary, a girl from the past, who had a very dark secret. Gemma continues to have her visions, and soon finds that they link her to another world full of power and danger.
Reflection: This book did not properly end. I suppose that’s why there are two other books. It stopped 2/3rds through with a rushed book-mark-type of ending. For this reason, even though that is not cool, I’d like to read the other two to see how the story is resolved. I enjoyed the dynamics between the girls and their competitiveness to be in the “in-crowd.” I also enjoyed the roundness of the characters; they weren’t flat. There is a very down-to-earth teacher in the story who reminds me of that one person destined to positively impact a student’s life, as well as Gemma’s occasional note about the role of women that was interesting. Lastly, I absolutely enjoyed the audio version of this as the one reading made the dialect and tone completely come alive. It was gorgeous.
Ages: Middle school and high school library. I think both groups of students would enjoy it, but that it does lend itself towards high school a bit more in the fact that the characters is a bit older and readying for marriage.
What lasts: This is a timeless story that transcends through the ages; it is relateable and you genuinely begin to feel for each character. I will continue to look for these kind of stories – one’s that relate and that reflect the inner desires of the young, as well as societal boundaries put upon them.
Stars 4.5 out of 5.
Here is her FAQ page that looks highly entertaining as well as informative.
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