Thursday, March 29, 2012

Breaking Beautiful

Some YA literature is predictable from the first page. Who didn't know that Bella would wind up with Edward? In fact, the only mystery in that series is what he sees in her. But I digress. And really, I should not stain a review ofBreaking Beautiful, a wonderful work of YA literature, by mentioning that vampire thing.

Allie Davis is 18 and cannot remember what happened the night that her boyfriend died. Author Jennifer Shaw Wolf sends us on a chase through Allie's mind. Does she imagine conversations that book place that night, or did they truly occur? Why does she feel like her friend, Blake, knows more than he appears to know? What about her twin brother, Andrew? What about the other people at the dance, the last to see her and Trip together before their fateful ride in his truck?

As Breaking Beautiful unfolds, we learn a lot about Allie, her family, and Trip. One of the overarching messages of this book is that appearances can - and do - deceive. Allie is told repeatedly to avoid Blake, because he spent time in juvie and he looks like he's nothing but trouble. Mrs. Phillips, Trip's mother, always wears a mink coat, ostensibly because it speaks to her family's wealth. But nothing is as it seems in this book. As the reader, you quickly learn to take nothing at face value. School mates Allie distrusts may not be as bad as she thinks. A newly hired detective, who repeatedly tells Allie that he wants to help her, may not be on her side. Or is he? 

As if her memory loss is not enough of a burden, Allie also keeps receiving notes in Trip's handwriting. Between the police pressuring her to tell them what happened, her own parents' pressures, and Trip's family's demands, Allie is a mess.

I keep waiting to hear footsteps on the sidewalk behind me - an angry mob coming to grab me and drag me back for digging my claws into the queen, or for the murder they're all sure I committed - but no one follows.

I'm not sure where I'm going until the sidewalk changes to a boardwalk and the ground starts to get sandy, past where Grandma's house used to be. Past Blake's house, gray and blue, with its sagging porch and peeling paint contrasting with the neat condos all around it. Toward the ocean, where the sound of waves shuts out the screaming in my ears.

Allie needs answers, but unfortunately, she is the only one who can provide them. 

I enjoyed Breaking Beautiful so much. I thought Allie was wonderfully complex, yet real. As a high school English teacher, I've seen girls like her who appear to have it all, but really only have something to hide. I've seen Blake, too - I teach a lot of Blakes. Her parents were real, and her classmates were real as well. But as much as I did like it, I was unsatisfied by the ending. Some of this was too neatly tied up, when it really should have been much messier.

This may be a YA book, but just anyone would enjoy it. Run, don't walk, and get yourself a copy.


Published by Bloomsbury Children's Book. Publication date is April 24, 2012.

Thanks to NetGalley for a preview.

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