A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dhonielle Clayton's The Belles is a dark fantasy that explores themes of beauty, perfection, and individuality. There's little content of concern (refreshingly swear-word free!), but the complex issues raised about beauty and society make it best for young teens and up. Torture with magical abilities, mentions of blood, and a sexual assault (grabbing, groping, kissing on the neck) are briefly described but not at all gory. There's some flirtation, feelings of attraction, and a kiss with tongue. Main character Camellia sees an opposite-sex couple making out and a couple of same-sex kisses. She's a good role model for independent thought and wanting to use her talents and powers to help individuals and society as a whole. Lots of positive diversity in this world's appreciation of the full spectrum of skin colors and hair types, which people can and do change frequently.
What's the story?
In the kingdom of Orléans, Camellia and her five "sisters" are THE BELLES, descendants of the Goddess of Beauty whose blood carries special powers that let them transform people physically, giving them any shape, skin color, or hair type they want. The Queen selects a favorite from each new generation of Belles to live in the grand palace in luxury while providing beauty treatments exclusively for royalty and nobility. The other Belles are distributed throughout the kingdom to do the same for the outlying areas. But behind the dazzling veneer of wealth, opulence, and endless pursuit of perfect beauty lurk dark secrets. As dreams come true, hopes are dashed and mysteries deepen with the screams in the night.
Is it any good?
Author Dhonielle Clayton creates a dark, compelling fantasy in a richly imagined world with intrigue and mystery to keep the pages turning as we ask ourselves about the price we pay for beauty. Readers will enjoy the vivid descriptions of unimaginable luxury and magical powers that can make you look any way you want. But teens especially will easily relate to Camellia as she struggles to find her own way and make decisions for herself.
It's also a great opportunity to celebrate a society that, however shallow, at least sees all skin colors, from the palest milk to the darkest ebony and everything in between, as equally beautiful. And it's a great chance to talk with teens about the value of beauty, how our beauty standards affect us as individuals and as a society, what we're willing to endure -- and pay -- for beauty, and what price is too high.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of beauty in The Belles. How is it different from real-world ideas about beauty? How is it the same?
If you could undergo a treatment with a Belle to change yourself, would you? Why, or why not?
What other dark fantasy books have you read? Which one is your favorite? Why?
- Author: Dhonielle Clayton
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses and Fairies, Brothers and Sisters
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Freeform Books
- Publication date: February 6, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 448
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love fantasy
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
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.