Review: The Balles by Dhonielle Clayton

8:49 PM

The Belles (The Belles, #1) by Dhonielle Clayton | ★★★★☆ (4.5)

“Dreams remind us of who we are and how we feel about the things around us.”

The Belles was one of my most anticipated YA releases of 2018 and with good reason: it sounded unlike anything I've ever read in the genre. And, through the years, I've read a lot of YA--so it's always nice to stumble upon something new. Plus, the lack of diversity is such a large problem in the community and The Belles promises to be more so.

Before I get started on my thoughts, I'll be level with you straightaway: I went into this book with no knowledge regarding the bury-your-gays trope used in it. I hope I didn't butcher what it's widely called because I suck at terms when it comes to tropes in anything. Finding this out, while reading it, really did sting and brought downy my rating a notch for obvious reasons. The Belles let me down in only two ways. the use of that trope and the lack of worldbuilding to a specific degree; only one of these can be ignored fully and I'm not going to hold the lesser note against Clayton.

While I was reading The Belles, I was struck by two things: the plotline is utterly unique (to me) but I felt very familiar while reading it. Dhonielle Clayton's story and prose are undeniably hers alone, and should be applauded, however, I felt similarly to how I felt whilst reading The Selection by Kiera Cass and The Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz.




Although the stories are not altogether tied in many forms of likeness, I found myself feeling exactly as I did by those: mesmerized. From Clayton's varied descriptions (so vivid and stunning) to the way everything felt almost... ominous, The Belles was not unlike an event to me. I found it impossible to look away and didn't dare try, even when the scenes were more tense. Clayton captures you from the start.

As for the concept, I thought The Belles was so intriguing. You could feel the passion that went into it. There's such a balance of genres in it--fantasy, romance, mystery--and it has a little something for everyone sprinkled in. Most importantly, it touches base on societies obsession with beauty--the society featured in The Belles is so very different than ours, but the ties are still there.

And it makes you evaluate quite a bit.

I loved the book, but it did have its flaws. We don't always understand what is happening and what the society featured truly means, but you get that feeling that you will in time. The above mentioned trope, of course, caused me to flinch back a bit, much like how I felt about The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee.

(Both The Thousandth Floor and The Belles I still love, mind you. They were impossible to put down. I just wish...)

A few of the twists were easy to see coming but no less appealing as they unfolded. I felt like a lot could have been developed better, but expect this to happen as the series progresses and personally I can't wait.

One thing that isn't underdeveloped are the complexities of the characters. I loved that they were very complex and still had that cloak of mystery to them. Sharp edges that you aren't certain if you see what you think you do or not. I liked the mix of certainty and uncertainty when it came to each of them and their relationships to one another. 

Overall, I really enjoyed Clayton's beautiful and mysterious world and am looking forward to the next installment. The Belles was pure fun!

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