Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon, published by Usborne on 1st May 2011
At Gottfried Academy, just one kiss will take your breath away. After Renee discovers her parents dead in what appears to be a strange double murder, she is sent to Gottfried Academy, a remote and mysterious high school dedicated to philosophy, 'crude sciences', and Latin: the Language of the Dead. Here she meets Dante, a dark and elusive student who harbors a deadly secret, but to whom she feels inexplicably drawn. Despite himself, Dante cannot control his attraction to Renee either and their desires gradually deepen into a complex and dangerous romance. But Dante's not the only one with secrets...Gottfried Academy has a few of its own. When Renee begins to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a former student, she begins to realize just how deadly these secrets are...
As soon as I saw the cover of 'Dead Beautiful' I knew I had to read it. It's a striking cover shot and really grabbed my attention before I even knew what the book was about. It's been compared in many ways to the Twilight saga but I have to say that although I agree in some respects, in others I thought that 'Dead Beautiful' really stands on its own merit as a brilliant read which was gripping and exciting and deserves to be considered in it's own right as a superb paranormal romance.
After the death of Renee Winter's parents in mysterious circumstances, she is sent to live with her grandfather who she finds it difficult to communicate with. I would have liked to have seen their relationship explored further, as I always enjoy reading about the relationships between family members. I liked the gradual unravelling of her grandfather's history and background and I think he could be very important in the future to many of the important secrets that Renee will come across. He decides to send Renee to Gottfried Academy and although she doesn't want to leave all of her friends and her life behind, he insists that she goes.
This book had all the perfect ingredients for a fascinating read. I thought that Renee was a brilliant female character who was really interesting and engaging and goes through a huge amount of character development over the course of the story. There's lashings of romance mixed with dark and mysterious secrets and plenty of action to grip the reader entirely.
'Dead Beautiful' ticked another box for me in that the majority of the story was set at a boarding school. I never wanted to attend one myself but I love reading about them and seeing how the characters get on standing on their own two feet and interacting with each other within the confines of the boundaries, rules and regulations of the school which has a dark and Gothic feel to it.
At Gottfried Academy, Renee meets the enigmatic Dante Berlin who I loved! Seriously, the guy is gorgeous, beyond beautiful and like all great boy crushes, has so many layers and hidden secrets that you keep discovering more and more about him as the story unfolds. I could definitely identify with Renee being drawn to him! I loved the way in which their relationship developed. It didn't seem too sudden and fast, which meant that sufficient time was spent on building up the chemistry and romance between them. By the end, even I was feeling weak at the knees! I'm looking forward to seeing more of Dante in future installments and discovering all of his secrets.
Another thing I loved about the book was the interweaving of Latin and philosophy. The idea of Latin as a 'dead language' is of huge significance to the story and I found this absolutely fascinating. So much so, that I'd quite like to try and learn it myself. Several of the character's names are also derived from philosophers which provides insight into their personalities and behaviour.
I thought that the main plot progressed quite slowly but this was actually a good thing as it allowed greater depth to be built in the plot and for the characters to be developed fully. The ending was mind-blowingly good and shed light on lots of the mysterious happenings throughout. This opening installment has got me well and truly hooked on the fascinating Renee Winters and Dante Berlin and I can't wait for the sequel 'Life Eternal' which is due to be published next year.