The Belles

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Belles Book Poster Image
Richly imagined dark fantasy explores the price of beauty.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Fantasy meant to entertain.

Positive Messages

Negative examples show the damage and danger in chasing physical perfection, ideal beauty, and the latest trends. People should learn to love their bodies even if they aren't perfect instead of undergoing painful, harmful procedures in order to be the most beautiful. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Camellia, 16, is a good role model for trying to make positive changes in the way people see and value beauty. She wants to use her powers and influence to help people appreciate what they have. She's courageous, loyal, wants to stand on her own merits, and to be responsible for herself. The villain enjoys tormenting people and craves absolute power. Lots of positive representations of all skin colors and hair types, all of which are seen as beautiful.


A sexual assault with grabbing, kissing the neck, and hands reaching up a skirt. A couple of victims tortured with magical abilities, one dies and a pool of blood is mentioned. Someone is burned and stabbed; pain is mentioned but not described in detail. Blood mentioned but not described, one description of drawing blood. Brief, not-gory descriptions of painful beauty treatments. Someone is carried to jail by force and dislocates a shoulder trying to escape.


Camellia sees people making out a couple of times, mentioning locked lips and hands everywhere. She sees a couple of same-sex kisses (same-sex relationships are mentioned and unremarkable in this fantasy world). Flirtation and feelings of attraction described. One kiss with tongue described with emotions like forgetting everything else, wanting to keep kissing forever.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Minor character smoking. Mentions of champagne at celebrations, official occasions, and once or twice to cope with strong emotions. People are given a calming tea before undergoing painful beauty treatments.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3-year-old Written bylostintomes December 3, 2018

Wonderfully weird, and surprisingly addicting!

This was wonderfully weird, and surprisingly addicting. The story is so unique that I was a little unsure whether I liked it at first because it’s so different... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byemiacts3332 June 20, 2018


The Belles are girls who possess the power to change appearances, body shapes, hair length, color, etc. They have been trained and in the end only the very best... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byStella Maria October 26, 2019
This story is quite impacting . You see how fast a "sturdy" society can collapse. This is defiantly a novel for our time and a story screaming out to... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

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