Study Guide

A Great and Terrible Beauty Writing Style

By Libba Bray

Writing Style

Accessible

Bray keeps the writing simple in this book so that the story moves quickly and Gemma's character takes center stage. There aren't many frills to speak of, though since this book is written toward a young adult audience (check out the "Genre" section for more on that), Bray uses some tricks to help teens follow the plot—particularly foreshadowing. For example, Gemma finds a newspaper clipping in her mother's diary, and it talks about:

A girl who went "mad as a hatter" after some mysterious involvement in a "diabolical occult ring." What's diabolical is that someone received money for this rubbish. (6.30)

Gemma doesn't get that there may be significance to this clipping, but as readers collecting clues to solve Gemma's mystery, we can't help but pay attention to it. And when we do, we are given clues to the twists and turns that await Gemma ahead on her journey.

Formal and Flowery

An interesting thing about A Great and Terrible Beauty is that Bray doesn't dumb down the language for today's texting, tweeting, YouTube watching teens. Although the writing isn't complicated in its format, the language is older, more antiquated and formal, just like the culture we are reading about, which makes the story and Gemma's voice far more believable.

In this example, you can see how Gemma thinks in a way teens today probably don't:

Early shadows leak through the tall windows, robbing the rooms slowly of their color. I have no appetite for dinner, nor do I join the others in Felicity's scarf-draped sanctuary. (16.93)

These days Gemma might have said something like, "It's starting to get dark and I'm not hungry. I really don't feel like hanging out with everyone." See the difference? The language in this book is definitely formal and flowery by today's standards.