Beautiful by Amy Reed
Release Date: Oct 2010
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
When thirteen-year-old Cassie moves to a suburb of Seattle, she is determined to leave her boring, good-girl existence behind. She chooses some dangerous new friends and is quickly caught up in their fast-paced world of drugs, sex, secrets, and cruelty. Cassie's new existence both thrills and terrifies her. She embraces the numbness she feels from the drugs, starts sleeping with an older boy, and gets pulled into a twisted friendship triangle that is tinged with violence and abuse. Cassie is trapped in a swift downward spiral, and there's no turning back.
The Short of It: For me as a reader, this book did not gel with me at all and landed. However, it was well written, realistic, and I know many teens who would love it. While it was not one for me, but I would still recommend checking it out.
Plot: The plot is dark, darker, and darkest. Cassie loses herself almost from page one and never really recovers. This book is about drugs, sex, and abuse.I appreciate Reed showing that even good kids can be swept away by the wrong crowd. Bad kids are not always bad; sometimes they’ve simply made mistakes along the way. There are no real happy endings with this book, which sadly is the reality for many teens. There is a glimmer of hope for Cassie, but even once finishing the last line I wasn’t sure she’d make it.
There is one small thing that has been bugging me since I first read it and I feel like I have to mention it. Sarah is sent to live with Alex and her mother as being sexually abused by her father. However, it is stated several times they don’t want her. With how the situation is presented, Protective Services has to be involved. If her father is in jail, it means that police were called and therefor CPS. Coming from a family that does foster care, this would never happen. It’s obvious from the start Alex’s house is not a healthy environment; not only mentally, but physically as well. It’s described as a mess, smelling of mildew, and broken things on more than one occasion. You do not sent a broken child into an unhealthy situation. She should have been put into the system, not sent to her biological mother. Now, I could be wrong with CPS being involved, but somehow I doubt it. Just seeing how the system works I can’t imagine they wouldn’t be. And since I have a foster sibling and know what kind of hoops we have to jump through for even ME to stay overnight with my parents, this situation should have never happened. And unfortunately ruined part of the book for me, considering the important roll Sarah end up playing.
Characters: I’ve known people like Cassie. More from a distance than up close. What she goes through is completely and utterly realistic. However, being on the cleaning up the mess end, I had trouble relating to Cassie. I wanted to shake her and scream that she was much smarter than this road she was taking. I mean INCREDIBLY smart. Like so smart she didn’t miss a beat in school even though she was messed up for most of it. However, teens want to fit in and this was Cassie’s chance, even though it was not the right crowd. And as much as I couldn’t connect with Cassie, I understand that. Most importantly, Cassie understood that deep down. I think it’s one of the many reasons her mood swings were so wild. Yes, some of that was the drugs and other issues, but some of it was her knowing this was not a good situation to be in.
Romance: None. Yes, Cassie dates, but it’s about power and status and not about love.
Writing: I did enjoy Reed’s style. There was something real about the gritty writing that sucked me in right away. While I may have other issues with the book, the writing is certainly not one of them. In fact, I do plan to pick up her next book when it comes out this year.
Librarian-Mode: Hands down this one is for the Hopkins fans. While not in poetry form, the prose reads fast enough to satisfy them.
So, now it’s your turn…have you read Beautiful? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought.