The Belles was rather popular on Instagram earlier this year; I suspect this was because of the beautiful cover. Due to its popularity, I was intrigued enough to give it a go and I’m really glad I did. Since then I have recommended it to a few students in year 9 and they too, have loved it.
Born with colour and the ability to make people beautiful, the Belles are highly sort after in a world where people are born grey and colourless. Camellia Beauregard is determined to be the Favourite Belle, just like her mother was. However, unable to contain herself at the final hurdle, Camellia shows off just a little too much and misses out on being the Favourite of the royal family. She is sent to the most respected tea house, which is the next best thing, but despite this honour she is left feeling like a failure. A twist of fate results in Camellia becoming the Favourite when her sister is cast out of the role. As she takes up the position, Camellia soon learns that the royal family is not as calm and poised as it might seem, and that the people at court are not as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. Camellia uncovers some hidden truths that force her to choose between saving herself and her sister Belles, or putting the people of Orlean first and risking her life to save them all.
Dhonielle Clayton has created a stunningly beautiful world. Not only are the characters beautiful, but the way Clayton describes the food, setting, technology, … everything, is absolutely gorgeous. As I was reading this I felt like I was watching the type of movie that has that soft glow about it, much like the cover of this book. However, Clayton has contrasted this beautiful world with some ugly events and issues. Clayton makes a striking comment on beauty; particularly on the lengths to which people will go to to obtain it, and how beauty on the outside is not always reflected on the inside.
I loved this book not only for all of that, but also because there was a damn good element of mystery and intrigue woven throughout the story. The hidden facets of the royal family, the issues with the two princesses, and the possibility of other “unofficial” Belles had me guessing right from the start. Not only that, but the combination of competition and sisterly love between the Belles made the story and characters relatable and likeable.
Due to the complex nature of some of the themes in this story, I wouldn’t recommend this to middle years readers. I know that they would probably enjoy the story and there’s certainly nothing mature about the content, but I would hate for them to miss the subtle messages and innuendos that truly make this story. Therefore, I would recommend this for year 9 students and up!