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On the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Renée Winters was still an ordinary girl. She spent her summers at the beach, had the perfect best friend, and had just started dating the cutest guy at school. No one she'd ever known had died. But all that changes when she finds her parents dead in the Redwood Forest, in what appears to be a strange double murder.
After the funeral Renée’s wealthy grandfather sends her to Gottfried Academy, a remote and mysterious boarding school in Maine, where she finds herself studying subjects like Philosophy, Latin, and the “Crude Sciences.”
It’s there that she meets Dante Berlin, a handsome and elusive boy to whom she feels inexplicably drawn. As they grow closer, unexplainable things begin to happen, but Renée can’t stop herself from falling in love. It’s only when she discovers a dark tragedy in Gottfried’s past that she begins to wonder if the Academy is everything it seems.
Little does she know, Dante is the one hiding a dangerous secret, one that has him fearing for her life.
Dead Beautiful is both a compelling romance and thought-provoking read, bringing shocking new meaning to life, death, love, and the nature of the soul.
*I received a free ARC of Dead Beautiful from Disney-Hyperion via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review*
Dead Beautiful is a pretty predictable YA story, where not that many things happen, the mystery isn’t really mysterious, and the characters and the story never managed to truly draw me in.
Dead Beautiful didn’t really take off for me, the mystery wasn’t mysterious enough, Renée wasn’t engaging enough, and Dante wasn’t enigmatic enough. I didn’t feel invested in the characters, especially because Renée seemed to change completely from when she was home to when she arrived at her new and expensive boarding school. All of the YA tropes I can do without are a part of Dead Beautiful, the girl who doesn’t realize she’s pretty, the dark and brooding boy who falls for her, insta-love and no parents.
Sadly, I never got into the story in Dead Beautiful, and I think it’s partly because it was so slow-moving, with very little happening, that I just didn’t feel the beautiful in Dead Beautiful at all. I was quite bored, actually. The whole zombie aspect didn’t appeal to me at all, because to me those kids weren’t really zombies at all – they were rather closer to vampires who didn’t get hurt by the sun. The whole secrecy between Renée’s grandfather and the things she should have been told has been done many times before, and Renée’s relationship with the other characters was superficial.
The writing in Dead Beautiful is quite good, though, even if it could have showed me slightly more than it did, rather than just telling me. The first person narrator is Renée herself, so I should have felt like I got to know her pretty well, but I don’t think I really did. And since it is written in past tense, there could have been a little more awareness or foreshadowing, but to me, it felt mostly flat and quite boring.
“Right,” I said, standing up, embarrassed that I had caused such a fuss. This had happened to me before. Even as a child, I seemed to find my way to dead things.
After studying me for a few moments, he turned and faced the professor without even acknowledging me. Shocked by his rudeness and unsure of what to do, I turned my attention to the board and pretended to ignore him. We sat in silence until the professor finished calling off the names.
I blinked once, and everything except for Dante seemed muted and distant. I stared at him – horrified, confused, excited – at his lips, parted and drawing breath into his body as he tried to understand what had just happened, and I knew that nothing would ever be the same.