Book Review: Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon (Renée Finds Dead Things)

I found this book misplaced beside Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten in my town bookshop and purchased it on impulse.  Why? The title grabbed me along with the witchy image of the girl on the cover and the misty, green forest in the background.  This is Woon’s debut novel and follows Renée Winters as she enrols in the mysterious boarding school Gottfried Academy in Maine, a place full of rules and regulations, a world away from the laid back Californian lifestyle she is used to.  Renée is drawn to dead things.  She finds her parents bodies in the woods in California and dead animals in the garden of her school in Maine during Horticulture class; so just what is it about the quiet student Dante that reels her in?

I liked Renée; the strength of her character shines through in the way she copes after the tragic death of her parents.  She plays a relatable sulky teenager for a short time but then gets on with her life and accompanies her grandfather back to the east coast where she meets her roommate Eleanor and immediately makes an enemy of the crabby and puritanical Mrs. Lynch, and develops a crush like every other girl on the mysterious Dante.

I loved the gothic setting of the foreboding boarding school with secret passageways, the secret gathering of students to conduct a séance, and the strange aura surrounding the mysterious teachers and unusual subjects they teach such as Crude Sciences, Horticulture and Latin (The Language of the Dead).  The solitary setting of Attica Falls compounded the sense of isolation and alienation that permeates the novel’s pages.  One of the most memorable characters for me is the wicked Mrs. Lynch who commands the hallways with her ruler for measuring the girls’ skirts. Having attended an all girls Catholic school myself I am very familiar with the fixation on obeying ludicrous dress codes.

Dead Beautiful is not another young adult vampire romance.  The mysterious Dante is something else. If your curiosity is piqued, buy the book.  While I felt it could do with a little more character depth, I relished the Hogwarts style of Gottfried and I’ll be seeking out the next part of the story.  ****

Check it out on Amazon HERE

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About Emma

Buffy fan, avid reader, writer.
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