By Dhonielle Clayton
Freeform, February 2018
Ages 14 and up, Grades 9 and up
Other formats: e-book, audio
For teen readers who love an expansive read—a book that offers a touch of fantasy, fascinating historical references (both imagined and real), vivid imagery and a storyline that has many plot twists and turns—Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles is the book for you. This YA read is rich in detail, with Ms. Clayton consistently painting word pictures and rendering fast-paced dialogue that helps readers experience the world of olden day New Orleans (Orleans in the novel), through the eyes of main character Camellia Beauregard.
Camelia is a Belle, a class of women revered for their beauty and their special ability to bestow beauty upon others. All she has ever wanted is to be the most beautiful Belle of all—the favorite—who gets to live with the King and Queen in the palace and care for the citizens’ of Orleans’s beauty needs from those revered quarters.
She and her sisters must each “audition” to become the favorite, and the experience leaves Camelia on a roller coaster of emotions and opportunity, a ride she is determined not to forfeit. Before long, however, she realizes that all wishes aren’t wisely granted, and that what appears to be the best position in which to sit or stand can often come with heavy burdens.
This novel deftly touches on modern-day issues, including the superficiality of outer beauty and the questionable steps many will take to achieve it at any costs; the dangers of leaving mental health concerns untreated; how jealousy and competition can ruin the closest of relationships; and how choosing integrity may cost one something, yet is often worth that sacrifice. Most importantly, Camelia realizes that beauty is not the source of happiness or what gives someone value.
Amid danger, a budding romance, and the unraveling of a startling mystery, readers will find a strength in Camelia that is inspiring and in and of itself the epitome of beauty. This story will linger with them long after they’ve reached “The End.” ~ SHA