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A Great and Terrible Beauty
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know this Victorian Era-set novel involves the supernatural, including girls who visit with the dead and help spirits cross over into the afterlife. It has a few sexual moments and a fair amount of violence, including a suicide and sacrificial killing of a child.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Sixteen-year-old Gemma is sent to a girls' boarding school in England after her mother's mysterious death. Gemma's visions give her the power to enter another realm where illusions seem real. Here, unlike in the stifling real world for proper young ladies in 1895, Gemma and her friends can pursue whatever most delights them. Emboldened by their new power, the young women refuse to acknowledge the realm's darkness until it threatens to destroy them.
Is it any good?
The friendship among the girls is marred by inconsistency, and the plot lurches a bit, but the novel's core mystery is still satisfying. Set in a time of corsets and Latin lessons, A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY contrasts the freedom of a fantasy world -- and the dark edges of power -- with Victorian society's constraints on women. This juxtaposition of detailed worlds forms the book's heart.
The start of a trilogy, A Great and Terrible Beauty resolves enough to serve as a standalone but leaves an evil character's identity and its heroine's future open for the sequels.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about their heart's desire. Do teens identify with Pippa's wish to find true love, or Ann's desire to be beautiful, or Felicity's craving for power?
Miss Moore, one of Gemma's teachers, tells the girls that the mind is a garden that requires cultivating. Do you agree? How do you "cultivate" your mind?
Miss Moore also says "There are no safe choices. Only other choices. . . Every choice has consequences." How does that apply in your life?
This book has supernatural elements; why do you think this type of book is so popular right now?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.