Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I went into this book with just a vague knowledge that it was a young adult book, something supernatural and with a simmering romance plot. It is all this, but it's also very eerie and haunting and a compelling mystery book full of suspense, with plenty of twists and surprises. The background mythology of the story is based on old legends with reference to the classic philosophers, and feels very believable.
Renee's grandfather sends her to Gottfried Academy after the mysterious death of her parents. This strange old school is very gothic and with a heavy influence on philosophy. Renee is to learn subjects like Latin, Philosophy and Horticulture. Renee is instantly drawn to isolated bad-boy Dante, and he feels an attraction to her as well. They start sneaking around and spending time together. The relationship between them was quite beautiful, and at times quite strained, but it works and there is a definite connection there.
The book reads very much like a mixture between Harry Potter and Twilight. I swear some of the lines between Renee and Dante are taken right out of Twilight, and the emotions described are very much the same. I have a feeling that if you didn't like Twilight you won't like this either. But the relationship is very intense, and the feelings between them felt genuine. You also have the similarity to Harry Potter with the idea of the new girl at the mysterious and unusual school, where the unexpected can happen, with all these unusual classes.
This is not a light and easy read. The deaths of Renee's parents at the beginning set this book up as a hard and tragic tale, and throughout all the events and mysteries you never know what is going to happen and if the characters are going to make it through. Death drives the story all the way to heart-wrenching twist at the end. The shock reveal ending explains why Renee and Dante have such a chemistry, and explains some of the mystery of the school, and the legend of the curse upon it.
This is a very unique idea, that works well and makes for a very readable story. Highly recommended.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
At Gottfried Academy, just one kiss will take your breath away. After Renee discovers her parents dead in what appears to be a strange double murder, she is sent to Gottfried Academy, a remote and mysterious high school dedicated to philosophy, 'crude sciences', and Latin: the Language of the Dead. Here she meets Dante, a dark and elusive student who harbors a deadly secret, but to whom she feels inexplicably drawn. Despite himself, Dante cannot control his attraction to Renee either and their desires gradually deepen into a complex and dangerous romance. But Dante's not the only one with secrets...Gottfried Academy has a few of its own. When Renee begins to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a former student, she begins to realize just how deadly these secrets are...Dark romance meets haunting murder mystery in this captivating tale of love, death and destiny.
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