Wild Beauty is a standalone magical realism book that follows the Nomeolvides family, women whose magic can make plants grow everywhere.
The second book by this author, When the Moon Was Ours, is one of my favorite books of all times. I went into Wild Beauty expecting it to be a new favorite, and I don’t know if it was. Am I disappointed? I don’t know; this was still really good.
I loved seeing three generations all living together in one house.
Different generations living very close or even in the same house is not that unusual where I live, but I rarely see it in American books, even in speculative fiction (we all know fantasy parents are either dead or missing). So that was great, and I loved how the cousins were so close they were like sisters.
The writing made the whole book feel magical. It’s slow, but it’s not a book you’d want to read quickly, anyway. But while it’s not fast-paced, there is a lot going on.
The descriptions are vivid, evocative – they make you feel what is happening, and they’re not only beautiful. Sometimes they are creepy. Sometimes they give you the chills, like the manteca colorá scene.
Also, one of the main symbols is the indigo milk cap, Lactarius indigo. Fungi in a young adult book! (Yes, that’s important to me. Like plant magic.)
Most characters are brown, and many characters are queer. The five Nomeolvides cousins are all bisexual.
Twice as many paths to trouble, their mothers would whisper. As though their daughters loving men and women meant they wanted all of them in the world. There was no way to tell their mothers the truth and make them believe it, that hearts that loved boys and girls were no more reckless or easily won than any other heart.
They loved who they loved. They broke how they broke.
This is just… it’s so magical and it has a meaning. It doesn’t always feel removed from reality. It’s not complicated writing for the sake of it. And that’s what matters.
I liked the characters; Estrella was the best. At some point she burns down the car of the man who is threatening her family, and I really didn’t expect that, but I should have.
I also liked Fel, and the romance between him and Estrella. To see them growing close as Fel slowly discovers more about his past was great. And painful.
The main thing I didn’t like: This book is obsessed with romantic love. Romantic love is so special it is a poison that can make people disappear (the love-is-a-curse trope, as usual. I hate it because I’m aro and I hate it because it’s cliché).
One of the main symbols of this book is the starflower. Starflowers keep growing on the ceiling of Estrella’s bedroom. That was supposed to feel magical, I guess, but here we use starflowers (borage) to make ravioli. If I told you that I’m worried because my ceiling is covered in spinaches it wouldn’t feel that magical anymore, would it? I just couldn’t take it seriously.
My rating: ★★★★¾
Have you read Wild Beauty? What did you think of it?