Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a horrible car accident—including her memory of the event. As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember because doing so means delving into what she’s kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship. When the police reopen the investigation, it casts suspicion on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around town. Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free?
I had my doubts about this book before I read it. I am not normally a fan of contemporary YA fiction. Normally I find it to bland or to dramatic and in its own way Breaking Beautiful fell in the second group for me.
This book is not terrible by any means, it is well written, atmospheric and the characters are mostly great (especially Andrew). I thought the world came alive wonderfully and at times Breaking Beautiful was genuinely moving and touching.
Yet there were problems that I couldn’t quite ignore. It seemed to me that everyone was extremely and unrealistically unfair towards Allie. She has been through something awful yet people bully, condescend and never try to understand her. It is not just other school kids who are guilty of this it is everyone, her family, friends, school staff, police officers etc, etc. There is one part where a therapist doesn’t even notice that she is being lied to and takes someone else’s word over Allie’s…surely she should be able to see what is going on right in front of her. It just seems to me that she is surrounded by the most arrogant and selfish people on the planet. They don’t just blame her for the accident, but they blame her for her amnesia and people’s reputations and probably global warming (I jest). I just found it infuriating. In real life stuff wouldn’t happen like this there would be proper support networks, things that the school would have to do. (Something similar to this happened when I was at college. The Police and collage had to do things in a certain way and they had to give all of us involved a lot of understanding and support) You just wouldn’t have parents and especially cops bullying teenagers into getting their memories back, when they had a justified medical reason for losing it in the first place.
Another thing I found hard to get past was the fact that Allie is constantly being grounded, being told who she can and cannot socialise with by her parents. It might not sound like a big deal but Allie is 18. This may be a cultural thing. This book is set in a different country to my own. Where I am from no-one would ground an 18 year old…it just wouldn’t happen. If it is a cultural thing, and it does happen in the US all the time then I apologise to the author for bringing it up in this review as a negative.
My final problem with this book was Allie. Gosh I just wished she had a bit more to her. She was just too self-pitying for my liking. Yes, she is being treated appallingly by everyone but she just never really sticks up for herself. Sometimes she tries to and she comes across as a petulant child who stamps her foot, storms out and slams doors. I wished she had been a little more adult, and had a lot more backbone. I know it is difficult what with her history and what she has been through and for a while I understood why she was like that…but she just continued to be mopey and self-pitying for far too long. I think it is for this reason that I never completely bought the relationship between her and Blake. At times I honestly didn’t know why and how he put up with her.
Despite the problems I had and despite all the angst (which I am not a big fan of purely because I get so tense when reading it I want to be sick) this book is extremely engaging. I couldn’t put it down and I was completely engrossed in it. If a book can do that then it must be doing something right as far as I am concerned.
Breaking Beautiful is not a perfect book, but at the end of the day it didn’t really matter. I cared about what happened. Sure, it was unrealistic and at times overly painful but it was engaging and interesting. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.
Published April 24th 2012 by Walker Childrens. A free copy was provided for review. Image courtesy of Goodreads
Review by Kate Phillips