Wild Beauty, by Anna-Marie McLemore
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Love grows such strange things.
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.
Persons of Color
Wild Beauty is a deeply compelling book, and it hit me hard. The cast of characters is large (three generations of five Nomeolvides women each, plus a handful of other main characters), but no one ever feels lost in the narrative. The sense of family and loyalty is so strong, but we also see the small cracks and defenses that have built up between these women who are cursed to lose the people they love.
The descriptions are evocative, and if you’re a flower nerd, then get ready! Flowers play a significant role in this story, as each of the Nomeolvides women can magically grow their namesake flowers. However, there were times when all of the flowers got to be a little much for me – the colors and imagery got mixed up in my head and I wasn’t entirely certain what was actually happening on page. But all of the descriptions and characterizations of the people are spot on and really spoke to deeper truths about how we relate to each other, and the larger world, and what our responsibilities are to each other. This last point, in particular, is a major theme throughout the book, and McLemore does not pull her punches.
All five of the youngest Nomeolvides generation are enamored with Bay, the girl who owns the estate they live on. When Fel shows up, Estrella is drawn to him, and their unfolding relationship is careful and cautious and ultimately one of the strongest and most believable relationships I’ve read in awhile. When I first read the blurb, I was a little leery of “dude shows up and changes everything.” In practice, though, Fel and Estrella’s alternating viewpoints are well balanced, and Fel himself was my favorite character in this book. The revelation of who Fel is and how he got to La Pradera makes perfect sense, and it changes our perspective of everything we knew in a very satisfying way. I cried, and when I finished Wild Beauty, I had to sit and process it. This is a book I see myself coming back to, and I highly recommend it.
Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, raised in the same town as the world’s largest wisteria vine, and taught by her family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. Her debut novel THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults book, and a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award. Her second novel, WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature, and was a 2017 Stonewall Honor Book. Her third novel, WILD BEAUTY (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan) will be released on October 3, 2017.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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