Saturday, January 8, 2011

Summary: Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon

Have you ever read a book and then forgotten everything you read? Do you ever wish you could just read a quick summary to refresh your memory instead of having to reread the entire book? I have, especially when a book is part of a series and I just want to get the highlights of the previous books so I know what's going on when I read the latest installment. I enjoy rereading, but sometimes I just feel so guilty spending time on a book I've already read when all the books on my TBR pile glare at me for neglecting them. These posts are an attempt to help forgetful readers like myself.

These posts are also where those of us who have read the book can hold a discussion about any events in the book. These discussions will contain spoilers. 

The following post is a summary of the book. If you have not read the book, then go to my Dead Beautiful review instead. 

This post does contain spoilers, so if you haven't read the book, then don't read the rest of this post! 

Dead Beautiful, by Yvonne Woon
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 455
Received: Library
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

Author's Page
Amazon Page 

Goodreads Page

So you want to find out what happens in Dead Beautiful? Click here if you want to read my spoiler free review, or click the following link for the full summary:

Click me to read spoilers

Renee is out with her friend when she feels pulled to the forest. She finds her parents dead with gauze in their mouths and coins scattered around their bodies. Cause of death is ruled heart attacks, but Renee and her grandfather believe they have been murdered. Renee’s grandfather sends her to Gottfried Academy where he believes she will be safe. She arrives and begins taking a number of unconventional courses like horticulture and Latin. She is apparently gifted at horticulture. Gottfried also has a stern headmistress and an enigmatic Board of Monitors whose purpose is unknown to Renee.

She becomes friends with her roommate Eleanor, a shy boy named Nathaniel, and Dante Berlin. Renee learns that Dante used to be friends with a number of strange students until tragedy struck. A boy, Ben, was killed and Dante found him. Renee learns that Ben’s cause of death was deemed a heart attack, just like Renee’s mother. Ben’s girlfriend was said to have transferred and Dante became a loner shunning all friendships. He is drawn to Renee and the two begin dating.

In horticulture class, Renee discovers a dead baby deer. It is mentioned that Renee often finds dead things. Renee is drawn to a dead mouse in the library and in the process overhears a conversation between Dante’s former friends (among them Gideon). They are speaking in Latin, so she does not understand what they are saying, but she recognizes the mention of the Board of Monitors, Eleanor’s name, and Eleanor’s brother’s name (he is on the Board).

Dante finds Renee and the two leave together. Renee notices that Dante is extremely cold, but he does not seem to notice. Dante begins tutoring Renee in Latin. The two get to know one another better. Dante tells Renee his family died in a plane crash. Dante accidentally cuts himself during one of their tutoring sessions but the wound heals almost immediately. Dante pretends nothing happened, but Renee notices and begins to suspect.

Renee is invited to attend a séance with Eleanor and a few other girls. Each girl calls on a different dead person. Eleanor calls on Ben and Cassandra (Ben’s old girlfriend, the one who supposedly transferred). Eleanor tells Renee that Cassandra claims she has been killed. Renee called on her father, but she began thinking about Dante midway through. She is drawn to a tree outside, believing her father is telling her to go there. She leaves and sees Dante and Gideon at the tree. Dante protects Renee from his friends and the two leave. They almost kiss in a classroom, but Dante resists kissing her on the mouth.

Renee and her friend discuss the events of the séance and a student named Minnie Roberts is mentioned. Last year Minnie claimed the headmistress killed Cassandra by burying her alive. Minnie has been branded insane as a result, but Renee wonders if she is telling the truth.

Renee is sent to the headmistress’s office after a teacher reported seeing her and Dante outside after hours. The headmistress is not angry with Renee and is actually nice to her, though she makes a few confusing comments about Renee’s aptitude in horticulture. Renee and her friends decide to find a way to get student files from the headmistress’s office. They are hoping to find information about Ben and Cassandra. When they look, they discover the files are missing.

Renee finds a book talking about Gottfried’s history and explaining The Gottfried Curse. Gottfried used to be a hospital for children but was later turned into a boarding school. Students of the school have died frequently, usually from “natural disasters” or “outbreaks of disease,” but there is also a high incidence of unexplained heart attacks. Renee suspects these deaths are not what they seem. She also discovers her grandfather used to be headmaster of Gottfried.

Dante and Renee spend an innocent night together. Dante does not sleep. Renee finds out that Ben died with his tie stuffed in his mouth, similar to the gauze stuffed in her parents’ mouths. Dante tells Renee she makes him feel alive, but Renee feels dizzy in response. When Renee returns to school she discovers there has been a flood in the girls’ dorm and Eleanor is missing.

While snooping in Gideon’s room, Renee discovers the school files for Eleanor, Cassandra and Ben. The files state Ben died from “kiss of death” and Cassandra died twice.

Dante finds Eleanor alive. He says she had been trapped in the flooded basement. The students go home for Christmas. Renee finds a copy of Descartes’ mythical Seventh Meditation in her grandfather’s house. The book explains that when children die, they can remain alive but soulless so long as they are not buried. They do not eat, sleep, or age. They are beautiful and fluent in Latin, but tortured by the fact that they do not have their soul. They spend their lives questing for their own soul. Legend says that if they find their original soul again they will become alive once more, but this has never been proven. Their bodies begin to decompose if they have not found their own soul by their 21st birthday, but they can preserve themselves by taking the souls of other people. A kiss on the mouth by one of these undead will lead to the theft of the soul. Renee realizes that Dante is one of these undead.

Renee confronts her grandfather and he explains that Gottfried is a school for the undead. The deaths associated with the Gottfried Curse were a mix of the undead dying for real once they reached age 21 and living students dying from having their souls stolen. The board of monitors is designed to watch the undead and protect the living from any rogue undead. These monitors are innately gifted at identifying the dead. Renee is one of them.

Renee discovers Eleanor has been turned into the undead and that her friend Nathaniel is also undead. At first she is unable to accept Dante, but she eventually takes him back. Nathaniel is buried alive but saved before he is killed permanently. Nathaniel reports that he was buried by Eleanor’s brother who was attempting to get revenge and make an example of one of the undead for killing his sister. Renee discovers Eleanor was killed by Gideon as revenge for Cassandra’s death.

Renee and Dante are called to the headmistress’s office where she tells them that they share a soul. She encourages Dante to take his soul back from Renee to see if the legend is true. Renee is convinced, but Dante refuses. They are interrupted by Gideon who kills the headmistress by stealing her soul. Dante chases Gideon outside where they fight. Renee kills Gideon, but in the process Dante and Renee fall into a hole.

Renee knows Dante will die in the hole, so she gives him her soul and becomes undead. Dante carries her out of the hole and the two lie on the grass together. Dante tells Renee he wants her to have a real life and he kisses her, returning her soul and dying himself.


  1. Okay, I just listened to this and thought "That's it?" I'm very disappointed with the ending. Is there going to be a sequel?

    I read the spoiler because I had to make sure I heard correctly. I really don't do audio books very well. I'm a show me don't tell me kind of person.

  2. Yup, I couldn't believe that ending! It just cuts off. But I'm also confused because wouldn't he still be "alive" like he was during the rest of the book? Or does he die for real this time?

    There will be a sequel though called Life Eternal. I think it's coming out sometime in 2012. Maybe it will answer some questions.

  3. Yeah, it won't be out until WINTER 2012. If she wants people to stay interested she better write faster. Two years is unacceptable for a book that size to take for a sequel. Everyone will forget it. She will lose readers.


  4. I agree. Two years is so long, especially when it's such a long book. There's way too much that I'd forget over that span of time. Even a year kills me. I wonder if it will be a trilogy and if the third book will take another two years.

  5. Don't know if I'll keep up with it.


  6. Oh my god! Am I the only one who's so obsessed over damn Dante? I want my own Dante Berlin!!!


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