by Megan Shepherd
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Seventeen-year-old Anouk envies the human world, where people known as Pretties lavish themselves in fast cars, high fashion, and have the freedom to fall in love. But Anouk can never have those things, because she is not really human. Enchanted from animal to human girl and forbidden to venture beyond her familiar Parisian prison, Anouk is a Beastie: destined for a life surrounded by dust bunnies and cinders serving Mada Vittora, the evil witch who spelled her into existence. That is, until one day she finds her mistress murdered in a pool of blood—and Anouk is accused of the crime.
Now, the world she always dreamed of is rife with danger. Pursued through Paris by the underground magical society known as the Haute, Anouk and her fellow Beasties only have three days to find the real killer before the spell keeping them human fades away. If they fail, they will lose the only lives they’ve ever known…but if they succeed, they could be more powerful than anyone ever bargained for.
From New York Times bestselling author Megan Shepherd, Grim Lovelies is an epic and glittering YA fantasy. Prepare to be spellbound by the world of Grim Lovelies, where secrets have been long buried, friends can become enemies, and everything—especially humanity—comes at a price.
I’m really struggling with this review… On one hand, there was nothing truly awful about Grim Lovelies, but it just didn’t capture me the way I wanted it to. On top of that there is another issue – it is VERY hard to talk about this novel without giving away spoilers. I’m going to do my very best not to ruin anything moving forward and I believe any content I might discuss won’t give anything away…. so here goes.
Anouk is a dreamer – or at least the book tells us so in the first few chapters before she escapes the house she had been locked in for her entire “human” life. She wants to explore the world, interact with the Pretties (this is what they call non-magical people – think “muggles”), and live her own life. The problem is that once she is actually allowed outside of her cage, she doesn’t seem all that enthralled with what she was missing.
I’ll admit that I think the pacing for this novel was a difficult thing to tackle & while I don’t think Shepherd did a bad job at it, it seemed off. Our team of Beasties and friends are racing against a literal clock. They have until midnight on the third day after their master was killed to essentially find another Witch to cast the same spell on them, or they will turn back into animals – all while trying not to be captured from the elite Haute royalty. The problem is it seemed like Shepherd really wanted us to feel the pressure of the time crunch right alongside the characters, but there were huge chunks of time it seemed like she didn’t know what to do with. Our characters drive back and forth several times from Paris to an estate 7 hours away. I’m confused why it had to be so far? Another instance that confused me was early in the novel, Anouk just sort of laid around in bed all day (and no she wasn’t sleeping from staying up all night – this is after a full nights rest). I think if you add it up, they spend at least half of the time until the curse ends doing pretty much nothing. It completely ruined all sense of urgency on my part.
Going into the book, I read a few reviews complaining that it seemed too Jr. And I’ll agree that from the description (and the gorgeous cover!) I was expecting sort of a dark, Gothic fairy tale. That certainly isn’t what this book is. It would have definitely benefited from a little more grit overall. But I don’t know about only suggesting this to a younger YA crowd. To me, the ending was overly dramatic and had a ton of (to me) quite senseless violence and death.
Unfortunately, of the cast Anouk was my least favorite character. She got things done by essentially using everyone around her and that bothered me a little. (And this is one of those instances where I cannot go into detail without spoilers but Beau -our love interest- does something near the end of the book that really made me stop liking him anymore.)
Aside from that, I really did like the other characters in Grim Lovelies BUT they all seemed either good or bad & it was clear as day who belonged in which column. I generally expect a little more depth to my heroes and villains. So I’m hoping Shepherd might get into this a little more in the following book.
And yes, there will be a sequel. The novel was mostly a set up for another book and while there were not any major resolutions at the end of the novel, I actually really liked how Shepherd left things. And it is mostly because of this that I bumped up the rating a bit.