A Great and Terrible Beauty
By Libba Bray
Series: Gemma Doyle, Book 1
My Rating: 3 Stars
I haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of Libba Bray’s work before though several of her books, including A Great and Terrible Beauty, have been on my to-read list for quite some time. I have however, had the pleasure of seeing her in person at Ya’ll Fest, a young adult literature festival held each year in Charleston, SC. She is an amazingly funny person and vastly different from everything I expected. If you ever get the chance to meet her, you should do it. You are sure to love her and it’s definitely going to make you want to read her books that much more.
I’ve been trying to complete a 2015 reading challenge we started back in January at the libraries where I work. Now that I think about it, we are really getting close to the end of the year so I really need to get cracking and finish off the last few items on this list. It’s become clear to me that I’m not going to meet my reading goal for the year and come January 1st I’m going to be dwelling on the fact that I failed to meet this goal so, if I can at least say I finished my 2015 reading challenge , I’ll have met at least one reading goal for the year. But I digress…One of the items on the reading challenge list was “a book with antonyms in the title.” When I did a search for books that met this requirement, A Great and Terrible Beauty came up so I jumped at the chance to kill two birds with one stone. Read my book with an antonym in the title and check off another book on my to-read list. My evil plan to take over the world is finally coming together. Ok maybe this isn’t really a step in that direction but it’s still an achievement and brings me one step closer to one of my goals.
Sixteen year old Gemma Doyle isn’t like other girls her age. She refuses to be prim and proper, she doesn’t want to be molded into just a pretty face so she can be the wife of a rich man. She wants to live and experience the world. She longs to leave India behind. She wants to see England but her family seems to have other plans for her. When tragedy strikes her family, rocking it to the core, Gemma is suddenly shipped off to England where she has been enrolled at Spence Academy, a private school for girls. Separated from her family when she desperately needs them, Gemma tries to make sense of the strange events that day in India when everything changed for her and her family. But try as she might she can’t explain what happened. What’s more, the strange occurrences seem to have followed her to London. They only way she can describe them is to call them visions. Strange visions that seem to come true soon after she has them. Gemma isn’t sure what’s happening to her but she needs answers. When a mysterious boy whom she recognizes from that dreaded day everything changed appears in England, Gemma knows he’s watching her. What she doesn’t know is why. When Gemma befriends two of Spense’s most powerful girls, they discover a secret group called The Order. But this secret society isn’t everything they appear to be. The Order wants Gemma and will do anything to get her. Armed with only the stern warnings of her mysterious Indian boy, and a secret diary, Gemma must find a way to control her visions before it’s too late.
I’ll admit I’m not generally attracted to books about magic. But I am a huge fan of books set in the Victorian age. That was the big pull of this book for me. There is always something so romantic and mysterious about books set in Victorian times. On the cusp of a technological revolution but still set in their ways, no era conflicts so much with the past, present and future. This constant struggle to find balance makes for some great stories, highly fascinating characters and some of the best books out there . A Great and Terrible Beauty did not disappoint.
I particularly liked the constant mystery in this book. I never quite knew what was happening and it’s what kept me connected. I found myself wanting to know more and more and more. I didn’t get answers to all of my questions but I was given just enough to hold my attention. I’m hoping the next two books will provide me all of the answers for which I long.
I also very much enjoyed Gemma Doyle as a character. She challenges the status quo and well, great things tend to happen when you challenge the status quo. That’s what I’ve always believed at least. Gemma is destroyed by what happens to her in India and she’s confused, but she doesn’t allow it to control her life. She wants answers regarding what happened. It’s unexplainable but that’s not acceptable. She will find out the truth no matter what. Throughout the book she persevered and sought out her answers despite warnings from those around her. I’m excited to see how Gemma grows in the next two books in the series, Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing.
Checkout this series. It’s a great read for YA fans and adult readers who enjoy YA books. Libba Bray is an amazing writer and her story is sure to entertain and appeal to many readers.