Review: ‘Beautiful Broken Things’ by Sara Barnard

aprilreads2Synopsis: “Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realizes, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.”

Beautiful Broken Things is an emotional and heartbreaking contemporary YA novel told from the point of view of Caddy, who lives in the belief that her life won’t be important until she experiences a ‘significant life event’. Essentially, this is the story of Caddy wishing to be just a little bit more interesting and special, and craving to be validated with attention and affection, until she gets more than she bargained for.

Whilst Caddy is a bit wet, desperate and annoying (and she is written wonderfully with realistic and relatable flaws), Rosie was probably my favourite character. Rosie tells it like it is. She’s what I wish I could have been like as a teenager. Rosie is someone who people listen to, someone who isn’t trampled over and taken advantage of by others. And I think that’s the point of her character. Teenage girls reading this novel are likely to relate to Caddy’s self-depreciation and crisis of identity whilst looking up to Rosie, especially as we see her through Caddy’s idolising and envious eyes.

And then, of course, there’s Suzanne. Now Suzanne is very enchanting but a bit of a dick. And not without reason as the story is based around her dealing with an abusive childhood.

One argument I often come across when people discuss YA Fiction is that adults reading books written for teenagers should not complain about how ‘frustrating’ it is when teenagers act like teenagers. Which is a very good point. In this context, it’s especially important. I spent a whole lot of this book internally screaming at one girl or another, because they do and say stupid, naive things.

But guess what, that’s why this is realistic. If I were to try to count all the stupid things I did as a teenager, from the little things you say to the way you act or the big decisions you make, I would never sleep again. Granted, there was pretty much zero chance of me going out drinking with strangers in another town at the age of sixteen (I would have been the one sitting on my computer at home on Harry Potter fan forum of some kind) but I definitely believe that other teenagers did.

Finally, I really enjoyed how this wasn’t just about romance. Because guess what, contemporary YA fiction doesn’t have to be! It gives the story a chance to explore dynamics of friendship (and how these change and break down) in their own right, instead of in relation to boys.

Favourite quote:

“It had never occurred to me that my flaws could be strengths in a different context.”

Top three reasons to read:

  • Focused on female friendship (and its flaws) instead of romance.
  • Deals with important issues like abuse and mental health very well.
  • Realistic portrayal of flawed characters.

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