Title // Wild Beauty
Author // Anna-Marie McLemore
Publication Date // October 3, 2017
Publisher // Feiwel & Friends
Readership // Young Adult
Genre // Magical Realism
Rating // ✭✭✭✭⭐︎
Anna-Marie McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers garnered fabulous reviews and was a finalist for the prestigious YALSA Morris Award, and her second novel, When the Moon was Ours, was longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Now, in Wild Beauty, McLemore introduces a spellbinding setting and two characters who are drawn together by fate—and pulled apart by reality.
For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.
Wild Beauty is a fairytale – a story of a family of women, their connection to the land and a tragic legacy that sees their lovers vanish.
Admittedly, I was taken in, firstly, by the gorgeous cover art design, which is simply stunning. Then I was drawn in by McLemore’s beautiful storytelling style, which is descriptive and lyrical, and totally evokes a fairytale-like feeling while reading the book. It’s not a retelling – it stands on its own, and is wonderful.
Told in dual perspectives, we unravel the stories of two very different individuals: Estrella, a Nomeolvides girl charged with maintaining the enchanting gardens of La Pradera, like all the women in her family before her, and Fel, a boy who mysteriously appears in those gardens with no memory of who he is or how he came to be there. The gardens themselves hold dangerous secrets and magic of their own.
I loved the family aspect of Wild Beauty; very early on we learn the make-up of Estrella’s family: she’s the second-youngest of five young women living on the estate, all of them sisters and cousins, all of them born of sisters and cousins, going back generations. Their magic is an innate part of their family, carried on through the females in their family, and these women take care of each other, no matter what. Throughout the story, the family ties are tested and time and time again, the women band together to support one another.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the way gender and relationships were written in this story: at the beginning of the book, Estrella and her 4 sisters/cousins are all in the love with the same young woman, Bay – a young woman who doesn’t conform to female stereotypes. While they’re in love with Bay, many of them have also had relationships with men, too, and while there is some discussion around the older women in their family not approving of their love of Bay, it’s mostly around the family curse, rather than from a place of prejudice. It was just lovely to read something that didn’t feel like the characters had to conform to one particular relationship type.
Overall, this is a beautiful story that totally captivated me from start to finish. I gave Wild Beauty 4.5 out of 5 stars.
I received a copy of Wild Beauty from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts are my own.