Rating: 2.75/5 Stars
Release Date: 10/6/2009
About the Book: When thirteen-year-old Cassie moves to a new town, she wants to leave behind her smart good girl image. She finds herself drawn into a strange friendship with Alex and soon Cassie is in a world with drugs, sex, secrets and lies. Cassie's life spins in a downward spiral and she finds herself in a twisted friendship with Alex with now way out.
GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Beautiful is an interesting little book. It's very gritty and perfect for fans of Ellen Hopkins. I can see readers who love gritty realistic fiction devouring this one. But adults will see the many faults that are in the book. It's also a bit odd because the character is so young, but I don't know how many middle school libraries could really carry it and I don't know if older teens would read about the addictions of a 7th grader. So I don't know who the audience really is. I guess 7th and 8th grade readers who are reading the gritty books allready and can get this one at the public library would be the prime audience.
The story seems to jump around too much without much explanation or back story. One moment Cassie is a good girl and the next she's pulled into Alex's world-there's no explanation how she got there. We know Cassie's family moved for a reason and we're led to believe it's some big secret, but we never find out what. In some ways Cassie's fast descent makes sense, especially given her age, but I wish the author would have described it a bit more. I wanted more development for Cassie and why she was choosing to leave her good girl image behind. And what was it about Alex's crowd that really drew her in? The only explanation the author really gives us is that at her old school Cassie tried being popular and that didn't work and she wants to leave her good girl image behind.
Alex is an interesting character and she's a fantastic villain, but we don't get to know her all that much. She was the person I wanted to know the most about, but she seems to come in and out of the story as needed. I wanted explanation for Alex's behavior and wanted to explore her backstory. I found her more interesting than Cassie, but we get to meet her in the beginning and then we miss out on any interaction with Alex for a good portion of the book until the end.
Same with Alex's half-sister, Sarah. Sarah causes tension between Cassie and Alex because Alex can't share friends and while this creates an interesting dynamic, it's only there when the author remembers to throw it in. There are also issues with Alex and Sarah's home life that as an adult reader really bugged me. Most likely, Sarah would not be placed in the home she's placed in, yet the author overlooks this fact to make an interesting story. When I read this for book club, all of us complained about this fact (we're all adults, but I think teens won't care and instead view it as "adults don't care about us.") I also really hated the adults in this book and they do some awful things that as an adult reader was hard for me to read and understand their actions.
The story is told from Cassie's point of view, which may explain why we get a limited view and never get to know more about Alex, Sarah, or the adults in the story, but I wish we had been given a bit more. I never felt too much sympathy for Cassie and never really cared for her. I didn't think she or the other characters where that fleshed out and I wanted them to be. The story left me wanting more.
I think this is a book that teens of realistic fiction would enjoy, but anyone older than fifteen or sixteen would probably have too many issues with it to really enjoy reading it.
Book Pairings: Crank by Ellen Hopkins, Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks
Full Disclosure: Reviewed from personal copy I purchased for my own library