Young Adult Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty

*Originally published 2016/02/23

While I worked at the bookstore I kept coming across this young adult book with a very gorgeous cover.  So when I saw it at the library a few weeks later I knew it was just meant to be. I remember being absorbed from the moment I opened the cover.  I only had to wait a few months for the second book (Rebel Angel) but the third (The Sweet Far Thing) wouldn’t be out for two years.  By that time I was busy graduating from University and figuring out my life.  I did manage to purchase a copy though, so good on me. Recently I read the first two books in Bray’s newest series, The Diviners, (second book is Lair of Dreams) and I loved them.  It got me thinking that I never finished the Gemma Doyle Trilogy that I had enjoyed so much.  My goal this year was to reread the first two and finally read the last book…

3682A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY (Gemma Doyle Trilogy: #1) Written by Libba Bray

Narrated by Josephine Bailey

2003, 403 Pages (11 Hours and 13 Minutes) Simon & Schuster

Genre: young adult, supernatural, suspense, romance


Rating: ★★★★★

Gemma is still trying to come to terms with foreseeing her mother’s death, and then having to see it come true.  Her brother and grandmother think she should leave India to attend Spence Academy for Girls in England.  As if Gemma wasn’t having a bad enough time the girls at the school have decided to snub her and make her an outcast.  Her roommate is a scholarship student who sides with the popular girls even though she too is made fun of by them.  The tide turns when she saves and in turns blackmails, Felicity the leader of the pack.  Trying to prove herself to Felicity and beautiful Pippa, Gemma brings along Ann and reveals some of her secrets and they soon find themselves involved in a supernatural mystery that could leave them in great peril.

I listened to A Great and Terrible Beauty on audio this time just for something different and really enjoyed Bailey’s narration.  Her impression of Ann’s nasally voice is spot-on, I think.  This is a perfect example of a young adult novel that is for both teens and adults.  There is nothing in this novel that is appropriate for a teen that watches young adult shows and movies.  Yet the plot is intricate enough to keep an adult engrossed.  Having just watched Penny Dreadful (definitely NOT for teens) I was geared up for the Victorian supernatural world.  I enjoyed the characters – main and secondary – as they were each so different and realistic.  I read this first when I was 24 and now at 35 I still would rate it a 5 star.  I really fell into the world created by Bray.

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