Beautiful Chaos/Beautiful Redemption – Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

The week before I went on vacation and the week-and-a-bit I was on vacation, I read two books that somewhat restored my faith in YA novels: Beautiful Chaos and Beautiful Redemption, the last two books in Kami Garcia/Margaret Stohl’s Caster Chronicles.

The last two YA books I read before these were disappointing and I worried that I was growing out of my appreciation for YA. And, while I still think I need to take a break and read “adult” books for a little while (starting in January because I have a trilogy of YA books sitting on my shelf that I just started and need to finish soon), these two books gave me hope.

From Amazon:

“Ethan Wate thought he was getting used to the strange, impossible events happening in Gatlin, his small Southern town. But now that Ethan and Lena have returned home from the Great Barrier, strange and impossible have taken on new meanings. Swarms of locusts, record-breaking heat, and devastating storms ravage Gatlin as Ethan and Lena struggle to understand the impact of Lena’s Claiming. Even Lena’s family of powerful Supernaturals is affected — and their abilities begin to dangerously misfire. As time passes, one question becomes clear: What — or who — will need to be sacrificed to save Gatlin?For Ethan, the chaos is a frightening but welcome distraction. He’s being haunted in his dreams again, but this time it’s not Lena — and the mysterious figure is following him out of his dreams and into his everyday life. Worse, Ethan is gradually losing pieces of himself — forgetting names, phone numbers, even memories. He doesn’t know why, and he’s afraid to ask. Sometimes there’s no going back. And this time there won’t be a happy ending.”
I won’t post the synopsis for the last book because it’s somewhat spoiler-y, but here’s the cover:
I had mixed feelings about book 2 in this series, Beautiful Darkness, if only because they did the same thing so many other YA series insist on doing in book 2 or 3: the introduction of a second love interest, thus creating an angsty love triangle, even though you know in your heart that the couple from book 1 is meant to be together forever and you don’t know why you have to deal with this drama because it’s soooo obvious.
But the last two books were very well done and more than made up for the (in my opinion) unnecessary dramatics of Beautiful Darkness. I admit, halfway through Beautiful Chaos, I worked out the shocking realization well before Ethan (the protagonist) did, and about 20-30 pages into Beautiful Redemption, I figured out the series’ almost-inevitable conclusion. It was still interesting to see how the authors (and Ethan) got to the end, even if it wasn’t surprising.
I respect and admire how they took chances with writing story lines that you don’t usually find in YA (though part of Chaos reminded me of Harry Potter and the last Horcrux…), when they probably knew that it would kill their readers. I’m lucky that I’ve only been reading the series since last year, so I didn’t have to wait very long in between installments (I ordered the last two in one shipment so I didn’t have to wait at all!), but I imagine it was brutal to read the end of Chaos and know there was another year until Redemption. Those courageous plot points helped make these two books a very satisfying read and – for what it’s worth – gained my approval.
One tip though: I don’t know if it’s in the hardcover edition as well, but if you pick up Beautiful Chaos in paperback, READ LINK’S MINI STORY AT THE END. Assuming it was bonus material, I skipped it (also because I had 15 minutes to finish packing before leaving for the airport), only to find out that those events are constantly referred to throughout Redemption. So it would have been helpful if I had read it (though not completely necessary, I guess – it didn’t affect my overall understanding of Redemption, but it would have provided some extra detail).
Both authors have started new (separate) series. I’d like to check them out eventually because I did like their collective narrative voice, but I think I have to put a hold on YA for a while. (we’ll see though. I make the same promise to myself about once every 3 months and so far, I haven’t managed to stick to it).

There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about:

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