Love grows such strange things.
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.
“Things growing just live in us,” she said.
I should have reviewed this weeks ago when I finished it, but I didn’t know how. This book nestled itself so deep into my heart, and left me speechless every time I tried to put my thoughts down in words. Anna-Marie McLemore is a brilliant, beautiful artist who has painted the most lovely images, and sculpted the most precious lives, in this story.
In this family, broken hearts were passed down like lockets. And Estrella had been enough a fool to think she could refuse the one meant for her simply by not opening her hands.
The Nomeolvides women are cursed to lives of growing beautiful things outside of them, while everything beautiful inside of them is turned to dust by heartbreak and loss. The imagery of their heartache is painted so brilliantly that I spent the majority of my time readingWild Beauty trapped somewhere between rapture and sorrow.
You see, the women have been cursed by the land that shelters them: each time a Nomeolvides woman falls in love, she will lose her to lover – either he leaves, or disappears. In the beginning of our story, all five of the youngest generation learn that they have each fallen in love with the same girl, and so, they decide that none of them can have her. Things change when a strange young man is returned from the ground for the first time, and the cousins must determine if a doomed love is worth it.
He was the chance that the raw will of La Pradera was stronger than the curse they passed down like antique lace.
Though Estrella, too, begins the story in love with the same young woman her cousins have fallen for, it’s quickly evidenced that something is blooming between her and Fel, the boy she pulled from the ground. These two are so precious and wonderful together, and I just wanted to protect them from harm so badly! Their exchanges range anywhere from silly banter to the most adorable moments of endearment and intimacy, and I loved every bit of it.
Estrella had fallen in love twice. They had been different not because one was a woman and one was a boy, but because one was Bay and one was Fel.
More than anything, this book is diverse: it is beautifully queer, with lovely brown women (and men) who I can say absolutely nothing negative about. I obviously cannot speak for the racial representation as it isn’t my place, but I can speak for the bisexual rep, and tell you that it moved me to shameless tears. It was one of the purest and most authentic representations of my sexuality that I have ever come across, and so much of what was said rang so true. If anyone asked me for a brilliant representation of bisexuality in fiction, I would immediately point them to the passage I pulled this quote from. <3
What shamed a girl was, in a boy, so often worth showing off.
Not only is Wild Beauty beautifully diverse, but it is also feminist as hell. There are multiple instances in which the Nomeolvides women express their frustrations at the double standards facing them, and I found myself grinning and nodding along at more than one of the comments registered against the sexist ideals forced upon women.
“Then wreck me,” he said.
Not to be silly or dramatic, but this book wrecked me. It put me into the first – and worst – book hangover I’ve had in a long time, and as I’m writing this review, all I want to do is dive right back in and read it all over again! Anna-Marie McLemore has instantly been placed on my “auto buy” list and I can’t wait to read more of her work. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Thank you to NetGalley and Feiwel & Friends for granting me this wonderful ARC in exchange for an honest review.