Author: Yvonne Woon
Series: Dead Beautiful #1
Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
On the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Renée Winters was still an ordinary girl. She spent her summers at the beach, had the perfect best friend, and had just started dating the cutest boy at school. No one she'd ever known had died. But all that changes when she finds her parents dead in the Redwood Forest, in what appears to be a strange double murder.
After the funeral Renée's wealthy grandfather sends her to Gottfried Academy, a remote and mysterious boarding school in Maine, where she finds herself studying subjects like Philosophy, Latin, and the "Crude Sciences."
It's there that she meets Dante Berlin, a handsome and elusive boy to whom she feels inexplicably drawn. As they grow closer, unexplainable things begin to happen, but Renée can't stop herself from falling in love. It's only when she discovers a dark tragedy in Gottfried's past that she begins to wonder if the Academy is everything it seems.
Little does she know, Dante is the one hiding a dangerous secret, one that has him fearing for her life.
Dead Beautiful is both a compelling romance and thought-provoking read, bringing shocking new meaning to life, death, love, and the nature of the soul.
Sometimes I choose books completely based on the genre tags that are applied to them on Goodreads. This one one of those cases. It is no secret to any who have read my reviews or know me personally that I have a thing for zombies. I will read anything that even mentions zombies in passing. I think it's the whole loophole to death situation that intrigues me. When you die, you imagine you stay dead. With zombies, that's not the case. Interesting, no? I seem to have a fascination with death and the reanimation of the dead.
Dead Beautiful is almost entirely composed of the questions of death and mortality. Renée used to be the typical California girl who was more concerned with relaxing by the beach than finding out the origins of burial proceedings. That all changed once Renée stumbled across her parents dead in the forest surrounded by coins and with gauze stuffed in their mouths. Renée's world gets shaken to the core from that point on.
Her disconnected and long-lost grandfather becomes her legal guardian and starts implimenting various changes to Renée's life, starting with a move to Maine and the enrollment in Gottfried Academy. Renée says goodbye to her best friend, Annie, and the boy she could possibly have fallen in love with and moves to a unusual school unlike any she has ever known.
It is there at Gottfried Academy that Renée meets Dante. Dante is the token mysteriously handsome boy that seems to plague every single young adult book ever written. The difference is, there is a reason he keeps his distance that has nothing to do with simply being cool. Dante and Renée are uncontrollably drawn to each other in almost a love at first sight type of scenario. Along the way, Renée realizes that there are just some things about the staff, students, and school in general that seem off. Donning her investigator's hat Renée sets out to learn why the school has such a hazy past and how that has some how effected the students and staff. What she finds out, is something she never would have imagined.
I thoroughly enjoyed Dead Beautiful and it wasn't even minutes after I closed the book, ran my hand over the cover affectionately, and set it aside to return to the library, that I was on my library database requesting the next book, Life Eternal, to be picked up on my next visit. I am not normally a morbid person, so the subject of death being so prevalent in this book should have turned me off to it completely. However, for some unknown reason, I found myself enthralled by the history of death and burials, the forbidden love between Renée and Dante, and the mysterious deaths of some of Gottfried's students. It was well written and had me guessing all the way through. The ending does leave off on a cliffhanger which is probably why I was so desperate to request the next book to read. So be prepared.
Dead Beautiful is a story of self discovery, the trials of love, and the realization of death being inevitable, although for some, not permanent.