REVIEW: Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
This was so, so gorgeous. One of the best things 2017 has given the world, and my words will not do it justice.
Every generation, five Nomeolvides women are born. They live in La Pradera and give the garden the flowers they grow from their hands. The girls and their gifts are beautiful and enchanting, but if they love too deeply, their lovers vanish forever. Until one day, a boy appears in the garden.
The story is in dual POV, one is Estrella's, who is one of the Nomeolvides girls, and the other is Fel, the boy who appeared in the garden. Nobody knows where Fel came from, not even he himself.
The book has a primarily Latinix cast and almost all characters are described as having brown skin. All five girls of this generation love boys and girls. The book does not use the word "bisexual" but the author does when talking about the book, and there are multiple moments in the story that talks about their love for more than one gender.
"Hearts that loved both boys and girls were no more reckless or easily won than any other heart. They loved who they loved. They broke how they broke. And the way it happened depended less on what was under their lovers’ clothes and more on what was wrapped inside their spirits."
No matter what I will say about this book, it will never be enough to make you understand the beauty of it, and you won't unless you read it, but I will try anyway. It is stunning. Beautiful, gorgeous, magical, sad, full of love, atmospheric. The writing feels like a flower on your tongue, to be savoured forever. The story is so full of acceptance. About who you love, your body, your background, how all these things make you you and you can be proud of them.
They had loved her in ways that streamed from their bodies as much as the flowers they grew."
I just-I love this book a lot, okay? It was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint. I love the story, the writing, the characters, and the messages the book brought.
The story is about family, about loss, about love. About the land we live on, about how we see and treat others. It talks about racism and immigration, about how we have, and still, treat undocumented immigrants. The story deals with sexism too, with homomisia and bimisia, with having money and having too little to survive. It's very intersectional, and all those things are talked about in the same beautiful way as the rest of the story, without taking away any of the importance of those topics. I'm incredibly impressed with how McLemore is able to pack a punch that's wrapped in flowers.
“He was a man, and a rich one, and these together made him believe that planets and moons orbited around the single point of his desires.”
This book has one of the best family dynamics I've ever read in YA. A family that's real, not perfect. Present, loving, sometimes constricting. A family in which everyone cares for one another. With members that are much alike, and also very different. I loved it. The story is very character driven and family plays a big role in the characters motivations, worries and joy. Families, born, found, chosen, are woven within everything these characters are and what they do.
It was amazing how La Pradera was as much a character in this story as the Nomeolvides women. This, I think, is why it is still a character-driven novel even though there is also the plot line of the mystery of La Pradera. Whilst the plot is there, this is not a fast-paced book. It doesn't have to be either.
There's one character, Bay, that is labelled as a girl in the story. However, she seems to be the one that McLemore refers to in her acknowledgements as genderqueer, and this part of the book might be supporting that:
"She had contrasted the satin trousers and French braid with the suspenders and felt hat. She had never considered the possibility that both were fully Bay, or that maybe neither was, or both were but so were other possibilities Estrella and her cousins could not guess, because Bay had yet to live them."
I don't know how Bay reads to genderqueer readers, or if I'm wrong to think the above quote might be about that. If there are any reviews by genderqueer readers, I'd love to link to them!
I loved the romance. How it didn't matter who you loved. How it was written. The development between Estrella and Fel was wonderfully done and their interactions, fears and hopes made my heart ache.
"That look, like he had overwhelmed her in a way that both broke her heart and held it inside her, was enough that he wanted to remember everything he had ever been and done."
This book was beautiful and showed the link between magical realism and colonialism well. It was unapologetic in what it is, in the hurting, in the loving, and I loved it. If you don't know much about magical realism or why colonialism has to do with it, I encourage you to read this thread by Cam.
A gorgeous story with magic you have to experience for yourself, definitely a must-read. (Also, the cover is even more beautiful than the goodreads picture will have you believe 😍