"BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS," by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99 (young adult)

When Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's debut novel, "Beautiful Creatures," came out, it was obvious that it would be popular.

And it was, garnering a position as Amazon.com's top teen novel of 2009, becoming a New York Times best-seller and winning the American Library Association Morris Award.

The duo is hoping for similar success with their follow-up novel, "Beautiful Darkness."

In "Beautiful Creatures" readers were introduced to Ethan Wate, a teen living in the Southern town of Gatlin, and to Lena Duchannes, the niece of Gatlin's version of the reclusive Boo Radley from "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Ethan and Lena are drawn to each other. They have the ability to communicate without speaking aloud and share visions. But life is not perfect, and the curse that has haunted Lena's family for generations will take Lena on her 16th birthday.

With the help of family and friends, Lena and Ethan are able to hold off the curse, at least until her 17th birthday, but that comes at a cost. Lena's Uncle Macon dies during the battle, leaving Lena conflicted.

"Beautiful Darkness" picks up from there.

Ethan is as in love with Lena as ever, but her tragic loss is tearing them apart. Ethan begins having visions only he can see, and a mysterious stranger starts monopolizing Lena's time.

Darkness is threatening to overtake Lena forever, and it's up to Ethan to save her.

As with "Beautiful Creatures," "Beautiful Darkness" is told from Ethan's point of view, giving readers — the books are geared toward teenage girls — a look at romance from a male's perspective.

Comment on this story

Garcia and Stohl continue to be a united voice in both tone and pacing. It's impossible to tell where one writer starts and the other leaves off.

Their character development is also strong. Ethan and Lena have grown in complexity and depth.

"Beautiful Darkness" features more magical and supernatural elements than its predecessor. Lives are in peril and the text reflects that.

This is a dynamic read with just the right touch of Southern charm. Readers can expect a nail-biter they won't want to put down.

e-mail: jharrison@desnews.com