Dead Beautiful (Dead Beautiful #1) - Yvonne Woon

(I got an ebook version of this novel through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

I don't know whether to give it 2 or 3 stars. Some parts I liked, some I found OK, some were a little dumb in my opinion.

I must say I really liked the atmosphere in this novel: the boarding school and its odd rules, the Gothic feeling, beautiful buildings... All of this surrounded with a veil of mystery, strange behaviours from some of the characters, and bits of foreshadowing that clicked pretty well once the story reached the moments when they made sense. I also liked the "mythology" behind it all: what happened to the children, the role of the Monitors, and why the school was built. It was a somewhat different take on death than what I've read up until now.

The pacing lacked in the first half of the book: I think a few chapters could've been condensed without the mystery being lessened. Things picked up by chapter 10, which was too far in the story to my liking (and they happened a little too fast in the end, with the explanation dropped on me rather too suddenly). Descriptions helped set the atmosphere, indeed, but after a while, I was starting to wonder when the main character would finally get it—or, rather, when she would actually take useful steps and ask the right questions to the right people.

My main problem with this novel were the characters. The insta-love between Renée and Dante was explained (and easy to foresee, come to think of it), so it bothered me less here than it usually does. However, I found their relationship too basic, too superficial, and I would've appreciated seeing more development here. As it was, it didn't really feel right with the ending. And, as mentioned above, I expected more action from Renée, more investigating; she looked like she could've been so much more, yet wasn't exploited to her full potential. Instead, she remained too vain.

I guess I'm going to file this novel in my list of "OK books". I cared enough to keep on reading, but I'll probably forget about it fast.