The Beautiful

Written by Renée Ahdieh
Review by Melissa Warren

Marceline Béatrice Rousseau is brighter than Sookie Stackhouse and far more emotionally complex than Bella Swan. She is also French. At age seventeen, Marceline flees her life as a dressmaker in France to start a new one in the Reconstruction-era South. She arrives in New Orleans amid the Mardi Gras festivities. Her new guardian, the mother superior of the Ursuline convent, instructs Marceline that she will not participate in any revelries.

Dutifully, Marceline heads to Jackson Square and attempts to raise money for the convent with her handmade handkerchiefs. A beautiful and richly dressed young woman is struck by the elegant details of Marceline’s work and insists the French dressmaker create her costume for an upcoming masquerade ball. Marceline seizes the opportunity to meet this captivating young woman after dark, in the name of raising money for the church, of course.

The beautiful woman becomes Marceline’s door to another world. A world filled with stunning, rich, young people who defy gender, race, and class barriers. It is also a violent world, and Marceline soon finds that death follows her wherever she goes.

This novel does not lack for vampire and werewolf feuds, elegant clothes, or elaborate parties. However, this novel is less sexual longing and more self-actualization. Steamy moments still abound, but the author refreshingly spends more time exploring the power of female friendships than steamy trysts. While Marceline might sport a bodice, no man is going to rip it off without her express consent. The Beautiful is perfect for teen readers who like their vampire series dripping with complicated literary and historical allusions with just a hint of modern feminism.