"Gatlin wasn't a complicated place; Gatlin was Gatlin." (Before.5)
On the surface, Gatlin might seem pretty simple: it's a plain old Southern town. (For more on the Southern thing, check out our "Genre" section.) The unemployment rate seems low. So does teen pregnancy. There don't seem to be many, if any, illegal drugs. Under the surface, however (and we mean way under—a whole series of catacombs run under the town), exists a world of magic and mystery. (Dun dun dun…)
This world has been there a lo-ong time, but something has changed in Gatlin by the end of the novel. But what exactly has changed: the town or the way Ethan views it?
Ethan's sixteen, so he spends a lot of time in high school. Stonewall Jackson High, to be precise. His school was named after a famous general in the Civil War, and a civil war of a different kind is waged within its walls.
The young residents of Gatlin let all their catty backstabbiness flow inside Jackson High. And there are generals, too. Emily Asher definitely rules her army of wannabes with an iron fist. We're not quite sure what the school looks like, or even how many buildings it has. But does it matter? We know that it's definitely divided inside, split between the populars, the wannabes, and the never-wills.
Macon Ravenwood's estate is hard to describe, mainly because it keeps changing. It reminds us of the island from Lost, floating through time. At one point it's decked out in the finest antebellum furniture. At another, it's all modern, like an IKEA catalog. It even looks like a prison at some point. Of course, with Macon as a warden, we're sure all the inmates would wear only the finest couture jumpsuits.
Why all the transformations? Well, you know how some people wear their hearts on their sleeves? In Lena's family, they seem to wear their house on their sleeves. Macon's place changes depending on how he feels on a daily basis. It's like a mood house—dark and stormy on a bad day, clean and shiny on a good one.