BOOK REPORT for Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Cover Story: How Does Your Garden Grow

BFF Charm: Sixth Wheel

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

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Talky Talk: Magical

Bonus Factors: LGBTQ, Latinx Culture

Relationship Status: Forever and Ever

Cover Story: How Does Your Garden Grow

 

This is a book about girls and flowers. This cover is wholly appropriate.

But I do wish they would have used real flowers instead, it’s really obvious that those are fakes.

The Deal:

Estrella Nomeolvides is one of five cousins who live with their five mothers and their five mothers. The cousins are the youngest generation of Nomeolvides women living on the La Pradera estate, and using their gifts for growing flowers to make a once barren landscape a stunning garden. But their gifts come with a price, which is often paid by the men they love most.

When the five young women realize they’re all in love with the same person, they make sacrifices to La Pradera to keep them safe. And when a mysterious boy appears, seemingly from the ground itself, secrets—both the family’s and the land’s—begin to unravel.

BFF Charm: Third (or Sixth) Wheel

It would be nearly impossible to get in with Estrella and her cousins, who are closer than sisters and sometimes act more like five parts of a whole than five separate women. I think I’d have to be content with living in their town and hearing the rumors that they might be witches, not caring a whit and wanting to hang out with them in the worst way, but never really getting the chance to thanks to our extremely disparate lives.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Although Estrella loves someone else at the start of Wild Beauty, there’s no mistaking Estrella’s immediate connection to the mysterious young man, Fel. Estrella feels compelled to help him figure out his past and he’s drawn to the qualities that she feels sets her apart from the other members of her family.

Talky Talk: Magical

Anna-Marie McLemore’s novels* are filled with the stuff of dreams, and Wild Beauty brings the magic in spades. Unlike some magical realism novels that ease you into the magic part of the plots, it’s made clear from the very start that the Nomeolvides women have gifts that allow them to grow flowers with a touch of their hands. This is a major part of the novel’s plot, and it might be somewhat hard to buy in to if it wasn’t for McLemore’s gorgeous prose. Her writing makes you believe that this sort of quiet sorcery is totally possible and plausible, and when you wake up when you finish the book, you’re sad that real life is so bland.

*I haven’t yet read her first novel, The Weight of Feathers, but I bet it’s equally as atmospheric.

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ+

The Nomeolvides cousins are all in love with the same person—a genderqueer character named Bay Briar who is most often referred to as a girl. Although the cousins worry some about how their mothers and grandmothers will react when they find out the cousins are all in love with a woman (or someone who is generally perceived to be a woman), they worry more about what their love will do to Bay.

This sort of important portrayal of LGTBQ+ characters is another thing I love about McLemore’s writing. And I completely adore this passage about love that she includes in Wild Beauty:

 

There was no way to tell their mothers the truth and make them believe it, that 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. What secret halls and trapdoors their souls held, and what each one hid and guarded.

 

Bonus Factor: Latinx Culture

Wild Beauty is a diverse, #OwnVoices novel that features a lot of Latinx influences. I particularly loved reading about the food, which all sounded so rich and made my mouth water more than once. Nothing I’ve eaten today has come close to how delicious the food in the book sounded.

Relationship Status: Forever and Ever

You might not have room for me in your life, Book, but I’m content to just sit here and bask in your story. Our time together felt like a dream, but one that I’ll remember fondly and never want to fade away.

Wild Beauty is now available.

Mandy lives in Austin, TX, where she's a technical writer by day and a pop culture junkie by night. When she's not ensconced in a book for Forever Young Adult, Mandy can be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.