[Book Review] BEULAH

[Book Review] BEULAH
Courtesy Cemetery Gates Media
As the Omicron variant tears its way across the country, nay, the world, many of us are finding ourselves with a lot more time to read. By that I mean we are stuck in quarantine and social media can only keep our attention for so long. I am an avid reader, so I am always on the hunt for a good spooky story, an intriguing mystery, or some spicy monster smut (don’t judge me, Tiktok has ruined you, too). The latest read for me has been a new book called BEULAH by Christi Nogle. It promises ghosts, old spooky house renovations, and astral travel.

Beulah follows Georgie as she and her mom and sisters Tommy and Stevie move their entire life to a town called Beulah. Their mom lived some of her best years in the small town with her best friend Ellen. They are moving into an old dilapidated schoolhouse purchased by Ellen to renovate and flip. They will live there for free and help with the renovations while being paid by Ellen for their work. Since their dad died, things have been rough for the family, especially with Georgie’s erratic behavior but it isn’t your average teenage angst. Georgie can see ghosts or “shadows”. They aren’t always the spirits of dead people, but sometimes they are shadows of moments in time. The problem is, sometimes it’s hard for Georgie to distinguish what’s real and what’s shadow. Her family just wishes she was normal. Georgie can also “daydream” meaning she can leave her body and travel to places that she has never been. She has explored almost all of Beulah before even arriving.

As the renovations go on, she sees all the shadows in the old schoolhouse. She also begins to suspect that her youngest sister, Stevie, can see them too. Georgie tries to navigate some semblance of a normal life while avoiding the judgemental eyes of her mother and sister, Tommy. Georgie failed her senior year of high school and she is being forced to try it all over again when every cell in her body says she should walk away and never look back. When a troublesome shadow enters the picture, she must keep herself and her family safe from spirits that want nothing more than to feel what it feels like to have a body again.

BEULAH is a very confusing book at times. Nogle writes well and, most of the time, her voice reminds me somewhat of old Francesca Lia Block books. I have read the Weetzie Bat books to death, so it was a nostalgic feeling at times but there is just too much fluff throughout the chapters. Georgie has the kind of teenage angst that would make even Bella Swan cringe. I found myself not caring if some shadow up and took her away just so she would stop being so damn morose. There’s a big discomfort with any interaction she has with literally anyone and I have never seen anyone so socially awkward, and not even in the endearing way. Georgie straight up acted like a bitch most of the book to everyone but her mom and sisters, and sometimes they were the ones that deserved it the most. There was really no character development or growth from the main characters and nearly ¾ of the book was repetitive narration from the most boring and lifeless lead character I have ever read.

There was such great potential in this story. Even when the more intense parts of the book happened, there was so much dreamworld mambo jumbo thrown in that after the first three “ah gotcha!” moments, I was bored and just ready for the book to be over. The ending offered no catharsis and left you feeling like you wasted a lot of time. Had this book had Stevie as the protagonist, I think the story would have been much more interesting. Stevie is young but she is full of personality and she has the biggest character growth throughout the story. And she’s actually likable. Tommy is pretty much an afterthought and the mom is just an annoyance, gaslighting her daughters out of the things they are seeing. Georgie is boring and full of melancholy. Sadness in the main character is okay as long as the story carries the rest of the weight with quality. Sadly, it did not.

BEULAH had a lot of potential to be a really dark and creepy story. Unfortunately, it ended up being a confusing romp through teenage angst with almost no likable characters, very little growth and too much fluff between things that were actually meaningful. Not once did it leave me with any feeling of dread or being unsettled from the events in the story. I wanted it to be something that it just wasn’t, unfortunately. What BEULAH lacks in creepiness and depth, it makes up for in redundancy and irritating characters and that’s not a good thing.

BEULAH is now available for purchase here!

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