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Libba Bray

Author of A Great and Terrible Beauty

26+ Works 31,132 Members 1,352 Reviews 131 Favorited

About the Author

Libba Bray was born in Alabama on March 11, 1964. She grew up in Texas and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1988. She moved to New York City and worked in the publicity department of Penguin Putnam, followed by three years at Spier, an advertising agency specializing in book show more advertising. Before writing young adult novels, she wrote three books for 17th Street Press using a pseudonym. She is the author of the Gemma Doyle Trilogy, Going Bovine and The Diviners. (Bowker Author Biography) show less


Works by Libba Bray

Associated Works

Zombies vs. Unicorns (2010) — Contributor — 1,316 copies
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd (2009) — Contributor — 1,148 copies
The Eternal Kiss: 13 Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire (2009) — Contributor — 426 copies
Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories (2016) — Contributor — 422 copies
21 Proms (2007) — Contributor — 305 copies
Half-Minute Horrors (2009) — Contributor — 279 copies
(Don't) Call Me Crazy (2018) — Contributor — 263 copies
A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology (2020) — Contributor — 195 copies
Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever. (2017) — Contributor — 182 copies
How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation (2018) — Contributor — 164 copies
Who Done It? (2013) — Contributor — 135 copies
Because I Was a Girl: True Stories for Girls of All Ages (2017) — Contributor — 96 copies
Futuredaze²: Reprise (2014) — Contributor — 4 copies


1920s (175) 19th century (184) adventure (173) audiobook (162) boarding school (523) boarding schools (120) coming of age (114) death (147) ebook (135) England (509) fantasy (2,344) favorites (150) fiction (1,535) friendship (273) Gemma Doyle Trilogy (176) gothic (243) historical (387) historical fantasy (177) historical fiction (988) horror (190) humor (231) India (144) mad cow disease (131) magic (942) mystery (279) own (169) paranormal (408) read (323) road trip (121) romance (323) satire (118) series (433) supernatural (546) teen (255) to-read (2,370) Victorian (443) Victorian England (121) YA (1,378) young adult (1,920) young adult fiction (269)

Common Knowledge



I love secondhand books. As thrilling as it can be to score a book you've been looking for at the used bookstore, there's also a chance to browse through the shelves and see what catches your eye that you might be willing to take on flyer on for $2. Which is how I picked up Libba Bray's A Great And Terrible Beauty. The cover art is striking, and the back promised a mix of the supernatural, girls boarding school drama, and a touch of gothic horror. While none of those things is a Must Read for me in and of itself, the combination sounded intriguing. And so, two American dollars later, I had my copy in my hot little hands. The book follows 16 year-old Gemma, who has been living in India with her parents for virtually her entire life and wants desperately to go live in England. But when she has a mystical vision of her mother's gruesome death, which comes true, she finds her wish granted in the worst possible way. To England she goes, sent straight off to boarding school at gloomy Spence Academy. She doesn't quite fit in with the other girls...until she catches queen bee Felicity in a compromising position and bribes her way into the inner circle. Gemma's power grows, and there's a secret diary that the girls read and use to find their way into a whole other world...where, of course, danger lurks.

Some experiments work out well. Some don't. This was a miss for me. It's the first of a trilogy, and it's usually been my experience that the first entry in a series is the best one in terms of a standalone story. Not so here...the entire idea of the realms and The Order and the Rakshana feels like Bray herself doesn't really understand how it all works and where she's trying to go with it, but figures she can get to it in the sequels. Same with Gemma and her friends...they're still sketches, their characters are very thin. I think YA can be a great genre, and some of the YA books I've read are still among my favorites. But I think it's often the home of some lazy writing and mistaking stereotypes and/or tropes for actual characters, and this book falls into the proverbial chaff rather than the proverbial wheat for me.
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ghneumann | 355 other reviews | Jun 14, 2024 |
When I first started reading A Great and Terrible Beauty, I admit I had mixed feelings. It felt a little too predictable, a little too juvenile. I didn’t like how whiny and inconsiderate Gemma was; I didn’t like how stereotypical and clique-like the boarding school characters were. I felt at the beginning that I could pretty much guess what was going to happen. I was, however wrong! Libba Bray really surprised me with her creativity and unexpected turns.
The basic gist of the story is this: Through a tragic series of events, sixteen-year-old Gemma Doyle has discovered she possesses mysterious powers, namely visions of the future. It is on the cusp of all this that she is sent to England to get an education at a boarding school for girls. After having spent her whole life in India, she finds herself in a whole new world of social rules and requirements. On top of all that, she still has her uncontrollable powers to deal with, as well as the presence of a mysterious young man who keeps telling her she must not use them. Left at a loss by her family’s tragedy, she spends her time trying to unveil the many unanswered questions that go with it.
The most intriguing part of the story to me was the magical realm that Gemma is able to access. I liked the idea that the realm was actually where everyone’s dreams happened or came from, and that everyone could travel there in dreams, they just couldn’t be aware of it or in control like Gemma.
I was also happily surprised by the relationship between Gemma, Ann, Felicity and Pippa. At first, the latter three honestly seemed like pretty two-dimensional characters to me. I thought I could guess how they were going to react, or what they were going to do in situations. But again I was surprised. Each of these characters has something about them that makes them more than what you get at face value – a lot like real life. They all have painful secrets and insecurities. It really made the story relatable.
I also really enjoyed the theme of independence and power that Bray gave to her characters – especially considering how things really were for young girls in the Victorian era. That considered, my only real complaint is some of the things the girls do in the story, real girls in the Victorian era never would’ve gotten away with. (However, perhaps the fact that I’m also reading Tess of the d’Urbervilles right now had an affect on my judgment on this issue, haha.) Although it might’ve been historically inaccurate, points can be given to once again making the girls relatable to a female audience.
Overall my only complaint would probably be that I really wanted to see some more romance between Kartik and Gemma! Bray has a great way of enticing me with just enough Gemma/Kartik scenes to drive me crazy. And now I guess I’ll have to go read Rebel Angels as soon as I can get my hands on it.
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escapinginpaper | 355 other reviews | May 18, 2024 |
mmundorf | 249 other reviews | Apr 22, 2024 |
Don't let the cover put you off. This is a laugh out loud funny, well-written, sharp satire. Must-reading for any girl 15 and their parents!
Dorothy2012 | 249 other reviews | Apr 22, 2024 |



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