A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Great story. Terrible consequences of power. Beautiful reading.

If you've noticed my silence over the past week, it's not because of lack of reading. It's just that life has intervened and made me get away from the computer! 

The book in one sentence:
A clairvoyant Gemma sees the death of her mother, flees India, and can never escape this gift even within a conservative boarding house back in England. 

My thoughts: I didn't have any expectations for this book, but it wasn't what I expected ... in a good way! And it looks like I have more to look forward to, as this has become the Gemma Doyle Trilogy.

This is an interesting mix of history, fantasy, and suspense. It has a very goth feel to it, sort of like the movie The Craft but set in the strait-laced 19th century boarding school milieu. Oddly and surprisingly enough, the characters all feel very modern, making the writing so much more accessible for the female young adult crowd who swoon over The Twilight Saga.

Gemma Doyle is a heroine you will learn to love. She starts off portrayed as a sulky teenager, one who despises her parents. Until she sees her mother getting killed in a vision. Learning that the vision came to pass, she is shipped off to finishing school by a depressed father in the hopes of making a new start.  It takes a while for Gemma to fit in. But she is smarter than most, spunky, and a risk-taker and she overcomes the traps laid out by the seasoned students. She eventually becomes accepted by the most popular and influential group of girls.

What follows next is a page-turning discovery of an old school secret - the death of two girls because of mysterious circumstances. With Gemma's clairvoyance, she naturally becomes the leader. The girls set out to discover the reasons for the deaths and Gemma unwittingly discovers more about herself than she initially sets out to.

This is great story-telling! Teenagers will enjoy it although I found some sections dark and quite disturbing. There were also characterizations which did not make total sense to me (such as how the popular girls became such great friends with Gemma so quickly). But overall, the pacing of the story kept me going.

Book-to-movie: Unfortunately, plans to make this into a movie have been squelched.

Check out The Gemma Doyle Trilogy: http://www.randomhouse.com/teens/gemmadoyle/index.html


  1. My friend really liked this book and I've been wanting to read it. Thanks for the awesome review!

  2. I bought a copy of this a couple months ago at Book Sale, will read it this year :)

  3. Hi Emidy & Blooey, hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did!


© guiltless readingMaira Gall