Title: WILD BEAUTY
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Publisher: Fiewel & Friends
TW/CW: abuse, violence, blood.
Rep: Bisexual, gender nonconforming, poverty, immigrant.
For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.
Trying to review a book by Anna-Marie McLemore is impossible. It just is. I stumbled and stuttered through my review of WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS and I have a feeling this book review is going to be much of the same. Trying to review her books is a lot like trying to describe to a stranger the girl I have a crush on. I can say she’s beautiful (have you seen that cover? Absolutely gorgeous). I can tell you that she’s smart and kind. What I can’t describe is her laugh and how it makes my insides feel. I could say that her laughter sounds like sunshine and just the thought of her make my insides melt… but if I’m honest, those descriptors aren’t even close to the truth. That’s how I feel about this book. I could break out all the flowery (ha!) language I have in my arsenal and none of that would even come close to really telling you how I feel about this book or how wonderful it actually is.
There are just no words.
This book ruined me. I felt the same way when I finished WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS. It’s not a bad ruin. It’s not a sad ruin. Whenever I finish a book by Anna-Marie, I feel like I have to shake out of her grasp. I feel like she’s ruined all other books for me because none of them are every going to touch those soft spots in my soul the way hers do. It’s frustrating. It’s charming. It’s ruination.
WILD BEAUTY introduces us to the Nomeolvides family, a group of women who grow flowers from their hands. They are bound to their home, La Pradera, and if they love anyone to hard, their love swallows their lover whole.
When the girls try to make a pack with La Pradera to protect Bay, the girl they all love, La Pradera gives them Fel- a boy literally plucked out of the ground wearing outdated clothes and deep scars on his back. As Fel starts unraveling the mystery of his life, La Pradera starts unraveling around them, opening itself up for the girls to discover the terrible truth about the grounds they grow their flowers on.
I want to talk about the rep in this book. The bisexual rep was amazing. I honestly haven’t seen such care and such honest conversation about bisexuality in any other book. My bi heart was overwhelmed. This book also takes a good look at poverty, how immigrants were and are treated, and wealth disparity.
Anna-Marie has a gift for writing main characters. While the side characters lacked a little (I couldn’t keep the cousins straight), Estrella and Fel felt so real to me. I was rooting for them both, for their peace, and when Fel found out his real name, I couldn’t help but cry.
I’ve said this several times but I wish I could go back and read this book again for the very first time. There is magic in those pages.
This review is honestly a sham. I just don’t have the words for this book. Please, put this on your TBR. Discover its magic for yourself.
Let love grow strange things for you, too.