A Review of Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

by Hal Patnott

In her acceptance speech for her 2017 Stonewall Honor Book When the Moon Was Ours, Anna-Marie McLemore said, “The time we need fairy tales the most is when we think there is no place in them for us.” Her work continually offers readers searching for representation a path to find themselves in “once upon a time.” Continuing with our theme of selecting titles that demonstrate ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), Wild Beauty stands out for inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and leadership and responsiveness. This upcoming release deserves starred reviews. Our copy of Wild Beauty is an advanced review.

Wild Beauty

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore, Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends (2017)

La Pradera blooms with the magic of the Nomeolvides women. They bless the land with their flowers, but in return they are cursed. Their lovers vanish and they can never leave their garden. If they try to run, the vengeful earth knows and poisons them until they return or die choking on pollen and blood. One hundred years ago, before the Briar family let the Nomeolvides women live at La Pradera, they were “las hijas del aire,” forced to flee from place to place and hide their magic. Like the generations of women before them, Estrella and her cousins feel the weight of the curse and their family’s sorrow. They hold their hearts close and protect each other from breaking. When the arrival of a new Briar threatens their home and a mysterious boy with no memories appears in the garden, Estrella and her cousins unite to save the people they love.

Anna-Marie McLemore contributes yet another original fairy tale for young adult readers packed with themes of identity, family, love, and home. She spins the narrative in the alternating perspectives of Estrella Nomeolvides and Fel, a boy who has forgotten his past. They learn to open their hearts to one another while discovering themselves. Place holds special significance in Wild Beauty. Through La Pradera’s curse, McLemore explores how the history of a land impacts the community who lives there and how oppression poisons the soil.  The resolution blossoms with healing and hope. Once again McLemore demonstrates her power to enchant with lyrical prose. Although McLemore’s past work already shines with excellence, this upcoming release is her richest and most thought-provoking book yet.

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