Title: Wild Beauty
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Release Date: October 3rd 2017
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.
Anna-Marie McLemore does it again… and really who is surprised.
Expressing how much I love books by Anna-Marie is difficult. Everything about her story telling skills is enthralling. I get so sucked up into it that I feel chewed up and spit out by the end (but in a good way).Wild Beauty is a spectacular, enchanting story about family, love, and the secrets in the ground below us. It’s rich with lore, queer characters, and is beautiful in every way possible.
Estrella and Fel… Anna-Marie continues to write the best main characters. I want to adopt these kids. Both of them were so strong of heart. I adored Estrella’s fearless spirit. She’s a collection of strength and pride. I loved seeing her in action and making change happen. And Fel. This boy deserves the world. He has a tough past but still loved people close to him so much. One of my favorite things about him was how much he adored Estrella. Male characters/love interests that truly admire the heroine’s strength are a dime a dozen. I loved how Estrella brought about change in his life and made him aspire to be more than a nameless boy. Also, Estrella and Fel have one of the most magical meet cutes. Anna-Marie truly is the master of meet cutes.
If you’ve read her previous book, When the Moon Was Ours, Wild Beauty is quite different from its predecessor. Wild Beauty felt a lot more plot driven. It also relied on history a lot more in both the sense of family history and regional history.
While reading When the Moon Was Ours, I wanted more family lore from it. We got a couple glimpses of it, but not as much as I wanted, especially because Anna-Marie gave us such fascinating pieces of the stories behind Miel and Sam’s families. As I’m a big fan of family curses and how history paves the way for families, I was elated to see that in Wild Beauty. Wild Beauty came through with the family history & lore of La Pradera, the gardens that the Nomeolvides women tend to. Throughout the book I was kept on my toes wondering why La Pradera was the way it was and why the family curse happened. The answer was totally not what I was expecting and it went a lot deeper than I thought it would which I loved. And it played such a large role in both Estrella and Fel’s lives. I don’t want to talk too much about it too much because of spoilers but just know that it so good.
I loved the focus on family. Often in Young Adult, you don’t get to read stories about that large of families or even big, multigenerational families that all live in the same home together, let alone a Latinx family filled with queer girls. The relationships between the Nomeolvides women are complicated. Trouble is bound to happen when you and your cousins all like the same person, but there were more conflicts than just crushes. Anna-Marie doesn’t shy away from the hard topics and conversations about relationships between family.
One of the reasons I was super excited for Wild Beauty was that there was bisexual representation. I knew that the main character, Estrella, and maybe a couple side characters were not going to be straight, but there’s so much more representation that that. All of the cousins are bisexual, including Estrella, and even some of the moms and grandmothers were also queer. Reading a Young Adult book that showcased older queer characters from multiple generations was so refreshing. There’s also a genderqueer character!!! It should be noted that labels aren’t used in the book. Anna-Marie has talked about why she does this before, but she also confirms “outside of canon” that the girls are in fact bisexual and that the genderqueer character is genderqueer. But it’s quite evident from reading Wild Beauty that the girls are bisexual and that the genderqueer character is genderqueer.
I will be eagerly waiting Anna-Marie McLemore’s next novel.