Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Book Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton book cover and review
The Belles, while a bit bloated, ended up captivating, and I found my heart pounding at the end.

In Orleans, the fantasy world of the Belles, the people are born grey and ugly.  They must rely on The Belles (and a lot of money) to make them beautiful and refresh their beauty over and over. Camellia and her sisters have trained to be Belles their entire life.  At the final competition, one will be chosen as The Favorite and become the Belle to the queen and her court.

Camellia is disappointed when she is not chosen as the favorite, but her best friend, Amber is.  Soon, however, Camellia is summoned to the palace to be the favorite, and she has no idea what has happened to Amber. Thus begins her slow realization that the secrets of Orleans and the Belles are horrific, all the while realizing she is helpless to change anything.  She finds herself in grave danger and the tension mounts as she tries to do what is right without risking life and limb.

The Belles, at almost 500 pages, is overly descriptive and drags a bit at the beginning. The whole beauty transformation that the Belles perform is very vague.  We are told over and over about all the equipment, makeup, and potions in their toolbox, but almost none of this is ever used.  The transformation seems to be purely magical.

Why does every YA book have to be pushing 500 pages? *steps on soapbox* I just find it disappointing that I will have a very hard time getting a large portion of my students to even take this book off the shelf because of its size, even though it is a compelling novel that lovers of fantasy worlds and the underdog fighting for justice would really enjoy.  And there is no reason it needs to be this long. Even the first Harry Potter book was only 300 pages long. (The last book was significantly longer, but we were hooked by then!) *steps off soapbox*

However... I really enjoyed The Belles. Once I got to the final third of the book, the tension is building, the danger seems insurmountable and the pulse quickens.  There is a nice, complete ending, although still enough questions to be answered that the next book will be anticipated. Teens who enjoy fantasy involving royalty where the weak and powerless are trying to break the oppression of the powerful will enjoy The Belles.

Published by Freeform, February 6, 2018
ARC obtained from School Library Connection Magazine
497 pages

Rating: 4/5

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  1. Yes, I also have many teens who shy away from books due to their size despite it being fast paced.

  2. I agree that books over 300 aren't great for YA as students get overwhelmed at the idea of reading a super long book. This books sounds like it could spur interesting discussions about beauty and the price people will pay for it.


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