The Damned: The Beautiful, Book 2

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Damned: The Beautiful, Book 2 Book Poster Image
More angst and romance in series' twisty middle installment.

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

Educational Value

Readers will learn a bit about historic New Orleans, but also about the various supernatural creatures of fantasy/paranormal books: vampires, werewolves, half-supernatural, half-human beings, fey creatures.

Positive Messages

The following themes from the first book carry over into the second: creating family out of friendship, being aware of one's worth, questioning gender-based roles in society, promoting consent culture, and acknowledging how difficult and limiting the past was for young women. Additionally, this installment encourages individuals to acknowledge their cultural, gender, racial, and class-based privilege, not to settle in matters of the heart, and to consider when bravery is more important than safety.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Celine is a courageous, intelligent, compassionate, if occasionally reckless, young woman. She knows how to defend herself and protect those she loves. Bastien is loyal to his adopted family and to Celine, whom he wishes only happiness -- even at the cost of his own. Michael is caring and patient; he's a disciplined police officer. Odette is devoted and big sisterly, and she looks after Bastien (and Celine). Arjun is clever and brave. Pippa is a devoted and unconditional friend to Celine. The cast of characters is diverse racially, ethnically, religiously, and also LGBTQ identity.

Violence

People are injured or killed due to supernatural murders and fights as well as torture, stabbings, brute physical force, silver bullet shooting, etc. A couple of prominent characters die in disturbing ways. Other characters are seriously hurt. In a gory fight with supernatural creatures, limbs are cut off and heads decapitated.

Sex

Scenes of vampire debauchery are vaguely described, although partial nudity and sexual activity is alluded to a few times. One potential couple shares a few chaste kisses, holds hands, and embraces. The central love interests is always aware of each other, has a passionate kiss, and eventually makes love in a consensual, sex-positive scene. Other couples kiss or hug.

Language

A few uses of "f--k," "s--t," "damn," "damned," "hell," "damn," "goddamn," and the untranslated French curse "putain de merde" ("damn s--t").

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults and older teens who live as adults drink wine, champagne, and liquor (absinthe, bourbon, etc.) at parties. Some people are clearly drunk. Some smoke opium. Recollection of a time when young teens smoke cigars for the first time and one is then punished by being made to smoke an entire box.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Damned is the second book in best-selling author Renée Ahdieh's 1872 New Orleans-set paranormal romance series that started with The Beautiful. This second installment of a four-book series takes place soon after the events of the first book: Bastien is now a baby vampire and Celine has been glamoured out her memories of Bastien, their love story, and his death. Naturally, neither amnesia nor becoming undead can keep Celine and Bastien and their complicated lives completely apart. As in the previous book, there's some bloody violence (characters are shot, stabbed, mauled, meet the vampire's "final death") as well as intimidation, vampire bloodlust, and general peril. The story's language is occasionally but not frequently strong (a couple of uses of "f--k," "s--t," "goddamn," the French phrase "putain de merde," etc.). The romance continues to be steamy with suggestive moments, descriptions of vampire debauchery, as well as one "first time" scene. Adults (in this context) drink liquor and smoke the drug opium in a party sequence. Two characters reflect on being caught smoking cigars are young teens. This series is best suited for teens who are fans of vampires, werewolves, historical thrillers, and paranormal romances.

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What's the story?

THE DAMNED starts soon after the events of The Beautiful: Bastien has transformed from human on the verge of death into a newly made vampire, making him hungry for blood and distraught at having lost Celine. Meanwhile, Celine, under the constant care of Michael, the New Orleans detective secretly from a family of werewolves, cannot remember anything other than she was attacked and then woke up in the hospital. She doesn't know she was once in love with Bastien and that she bargained with his powerful uncle to turn Bastien into a vampire in exchange for her memories. Bastien enters a time of self-destructive partying, and his world is turned upside down when Celine make her way to his family's nightclub/restaurant and has a spark of recognition. Afterward, the moment drives Celine to find a way to reconnect with the handsome young man who keeps haunting her dream. Bastien, desperate to go back to his mortal life and court Celine once again, researches the fable of a fey sorcerer with the ability to transform an immortal back into a mortal. Eventually Bastien's and a still memory-less Celine's paths continue to cross, leading them on a dangerous path.

Is it any good?

Classic middle installment provides more exposition, more twists, more romance, and more obstacles to the paranormal love story at the heart of Renée Ahdieh's lush and atmospheric vampire saga. Romance fans may not care about much other than the inevitability of Celine and Bastien's relationship; readers who picked up on the love triangle attempt in the first novel will see how Michael, however kind, caring, and attractive, is no match for brooding and fiery Bastien. Ahdieh seems uninterested in Teams. This is no Edward-Bella-Jacob or Gale-Katniss-Peeta dilemma; it's hard to imagine a reader believing for one minute that Celine could truly love anyone but Bastien given the intensity of their chemistry. If anything, there's more tension between Celine's best friend Pippa, who's engaged to a safe and rich New Orleans scion, and Arjun, Bastien's confidant, than there is between Michael and Celine.

Although a quick read, the 400-plus-page The Damned introduces more supernatural lore and lots more immortal creatures. The world-building expands to otherworldly dimensions and teases a future that's sure to come into play in the next book. Readers used to Ahdieh's duologies need to know that this is just Book 2, so there are a host of unanswered questions, plot twists, and just when one issue seems resolved, another possibly devastating challenge is thrown onto Celine and Bastien's path. The book swaps multiple points of view, but aside from the central duo, the ones that stand out most are Odette's, Arjun's, and Jae's -- those immortals all have fascinating teased out backstories. Ultimately, those perspectives add even more international flavor to an incredibly diverse cast, but in the end, this is definitely a love story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in The Damned. How does it compare to the violence in The Beautiful? Is supernatural violence less impactful than realistic violence? Which violent scenes made the biggest impact on you as a reader?

  • Which characters, if any, do you consider role models in the book? What character strengths do they display? Why are courage, empathy, and teamwork important? How are they depicted in the story?

  • Discuss the love story and its development in this second book. Why are love triangles so common in supernatural YA books? Did it resolve as you expected? What do you think will happen next?

Book details

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For kids who love fantasy and romance

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