I was born and raised in a modern world that came tangent to The Old South. My hometown--Sarasota, FL--was a sleepy, somewhat artsy resort town, and both of my parents were boringly sane (thank God).
However, we had plenty of, er, "colorful" folks on both sides of my family, and if I'd been born in one of those small, eccentric Southern towns my family visited each Summer and over Christmas break, I very well might have become more overtly odd, like my Aunt Ruth or Cousin Marion.
In "Beautiful Creatures," that small town is the fictional Gatlin, South Carolina, but it could have been any of a hundred small towns I've visited or passed through on the way to "Somewhere."
Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl have created a world where seemingly every family has skeletons in their closets, some of them perhaps have actual skeletons, maybe ones who dance around underneath the full moon.
Ethan is a fairly normal 16 year-old boy. Girls and sports interest him more than algebra and history. Then, he starts having the same dream most every night. There's a girl; she's in trouble, and Ethan tries to save her, only to have her hands slip away. In time, the dreams add a song--something about 16 years and 16 moons, which makes no sense at all to Ethan. He finds himself hearing this mystery girl's voice.
The dreams are perplexing, certainly, but they don't become truly scary until the girl from his dreams--the girl he knows he has to save--begins attending Stonewall Jackson High School with him.
Her name is Lena, and she lives with her reclusive Uncle Macon in a huge, haunted-looking mansion. The cheerleaders and debutantes shun the odd girl, as well as Ethan, who begins spending all his free time with her.
Ethan soon discovers that Lena has certain peculiar powers. The closer they grow--the more he learns (seriously, they can communicate telepathically?)--the weirder his life becomes. No matter what, Ethan is steadfast in his devotion to--and love for--Lena, even as the night draws closer when she must choose between embracing Lightness or Darkness. Either choice has consequences, and neither bodes well for Ethan.
I loved this book. The details of Gatlin and its secrets, plus the beautifully measured exposition of Lena and her looming predicament, make for a wonderful read. I guess this book is considered YA, but there's plenty here for any adult to enjoy. It's like "Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil" got cuisinarted with a Faulkner novel, and Stephen King put the pieces together.