Thursday, December 28, 2006

[Book Review] A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Libba Bray

Fiction/Young Adult

Beth reviews A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Libba Bray (Delacorte, 2003)

Remember back to when you were sixteen? The fights with your parents? Feeling like no one understood you? Now imagine that one of those fights with your mother ends with you saying "I don’t care if you come home at all." And then, to avoid being murdered, your mother commits suicide before your very eyes.

That’s exactly what happens to Gemma while in India. She is quickly sent home to England and enrolled at London’s Spence School, a girls’ academy that turns out “charming young ladies.” Gemma is immediately snubbed by the powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa and even by her own doughy, plain roommate Ann. However Gemma, not unlike many other Victorian ladies, uses blackmail to gain entry into the exclusive clique for Ann and herself.

Gemma has a secret. When she saw her mother’s death, it wasn’t exactly an eyewitness account; Gemma has visions. Kartik, a young man from India, follows Gemma to London and warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, the visions continue and one night Gemma follows what appears to be a young child into a cave where the diary of a Spence girl is hidden. The diary of Mary Dodd reveals the secrets of a mystical order with knowledge of the “realms” and of visions like Gemma's.

Gemma shares the diary and the secret of her visions with her new friends. They follow Gemma into the realms and are delighted with what they find. Ann can become beautiful, Pippa has a loving knight, Felicity a strong female influence. And Gemma? She finds her mother. But the tastes of their power and the fulfillment of their wishes—never to exist in their Victorian world—change the girls. How can one taste such greatness one minute and lose it the next?

Gemma knows she is the link between this world and the realms. It is now up to her to rebuild the Order and find out what really happened to Mary Dodd. Where good exists, so does evil.

Beth, Highland Branch Library

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