A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Wild Beauty is the third magical realism novel by award-winning young adult author Anna-Marie McLemore. A beautifully written story about a family of women who can grow flowers with their hands, the book takes place in an unspecified period and place. It explores various themes of family, forgiveness, secrets, redemption, and love. There's not much strong language except for a few insults (a few about effeminate or perceived-as-gay men). The violence includes a few disturbing, upsetting recollections: about a disaster that kills many people and destroys part of a town, and the assumed death and disappearance of a couple of characters. Mature teen readers familiar with magical realism will appreciate the sensuous language and the emotional romance.
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What's the story?
In Anna-Marie McLemore's third magical realism novel WILD BEAUTY, the enchanted women of the Nomeolvides ("Forget-Me-Not" in Spanish) family have tended to the gardens of La Pradera -- a beautiful estate owned by the Briar family in an undisclosed location -- for generations. Like their aunts, mothers, and grandmothers before them, the youngest generation of cousins: Estrella, Azalea, Calla, Dalia, and Gloria (all named after flowers) can magically make flowers bloom with their bare hands, but all the ability comes at a price. They've been told that their blessings come with a curse: Anyone they truly love will disappear, and if they leave the property they will die. When the cousins realize that they're all in love with young Bay Briar, gender-bending heiress to La Pradera, they try to appease the earth to keep her from disappearing. The garden then mysteriously gives them a present: a handsome young man in period clothes emerges from the dirt with no memory at all.
Is it any good?
A gorgeously written tale of family curses, feminism, and true love, this is an ideal choice for fans of magical realism and romance. Estrella and her cousins are stuck in their ancestral home, tending a sunken garden and making sure they don't fall in love -- lest that person disappear forever. The cousins are fiercely protective of one another, and it's clear they struggle with their individual desires and what they believe is best for their whole family. Estrella's growing connection with Fel, the mystery man who comes out of the enchanted earth, is a beautifully slow-burning love story of shared secrets and small moments so tender they'll make some readers cry.
McLemore's books aren't easy page-turners, because they demand to be savored and enjoyed. The language is so rich and lyrical, you need time to process the words, not just speed-read to find out what happens. Reid is a compelling nemesis -- greedy and uninterested in the Nomeolvides women as anything but servants or playthings he can use, whereas Bay (a "bastard Briar") deeply loves and understands them. But Wild Beauty isn't the Briars' story, it's a Nomeolvides tale, and like their name, it's not one you shall forget.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the author uses magical realism in Wild Beauty. How are the women's magical abilities with flowers symbolic in addition to literal?
What do you think about how romance is portrayed in Wild Beauty? Which couples did you want to end up together?
- Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
- Genre: Folklore
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, Fairy Tales, Great Girl Role Models, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
- Publication date: October 3, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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