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 picked up an ARC of GRIM LOVELIES with a friend at YALLWEST. We'd been eating lunch and chatting with our writing group, and a huge long line had grown on a path nearby. My friend decided she wanted to try to get a copy, as the drop was just about to happen, and we lucked out. We did NOT manage to get a macaron--those ran out just before we reached the front of the line--but did get some nice GRIM LOVELIES swag (lip balm) and some fizzy apple cider in fancy gold cups.
We had a feeling right away that we had scored a special book. The cover was stunning, and the blurb on the back was enticing. But when I dove into the book a couple days after the festival, I found myself completely swept up by the writing. Megan Shepherd has said the story was somewhat inspired by the idea of the animals turned into a coachman and horses for Cinderella, and there are nice little hints of that in the story, but her book manages to be something completely original while drawing upon and remixing the power of fairy tales.
The stakes are through the roof nearly right away, and the book fully explores the duality of its characters and setting--balancing the magical, less modern world with contemporary Paris and France, following the "Beasties" who struggle to maintain their human forms, and observing the fine yet important line between loving and using someone. Respecting and empowering oneself while navigating relationships among friends and the greater world will appeal to teen readers.
There were several specific elements I really enjoyed. The goblins which ended up playing an important part were fun and I loved how their fashion sense played into the human world. I want a teacup on a chain like a pocket watch! The found family ended up being highly satisfying, each character offering fun personality. What I was impressed by was how no one character fell into a stereotype--it took time for each to develop. And the main character had a most satisfying arc. Anouk starts out so young and unworldly, and watching her develop and begin to get a taste of her power was wonderful. While the ending of this first book of a duology was dark, as Shepherd is known for, I didn't find it frustrating. I was swept up in the stunning conclusion that is, like the gargoyle Anouk comes across early on in the book, beautiful and ugly all at once.