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?
Debut writer Jennifer Shaw Wolf takes readers on an emotional ride through the murky waters of love, shame, and, ultimately, forgiveness.
While it was this one detail, the amnesia, that drew me to Breaking Beautiful, it was actually the abusive relationship that Allie keeps so carefully hidden that kept me transfixed. Having been in a couple rather unhealthy relationships myself, my heart broke for Allie. I think it’s often hard for people to understand why someone would stay in an abusive relationship, and perhaps you can never fully understand if you haven’t experienced it for yourself (and you should be happy of that!), but Shaw handles the subject with careful hand. She gives an honest, sensitive portrayal of an abusive relationship, showing that abusive relationships are not starkly black and white for those intimately involved.
The presence of amnesia in a novel’s description often signals mystery, which is true of Breaking Beautiful. For most the novel, I really wasn’t focused on what happened the night Trip died. I was much more interested in Allie, her story before Trip died, and the fallout of the accident. Gradually, as Allie regained her memories and a romance developed with her best friend, Blake, I remembered that what happened the night of the accident was actually quite important. Assuming Trip didn’t kill himself, somebody helped cause his untimely demise… and quite a few characters had motive. Still, I had no idea what happened that night and discovered the truth right along with Allie, which was quite powerful.
I highly recommend Breaking Beautiful to fans of dramatic contemporary YA. Shaw’s debut isn’t cute and bubbly, though it does have definite light woven into the dark themes and issues. There is a heaviness to this book’s content, but it is, ultimately, a hopeful story. I look forward to more from this author!
Walker BFYR, Hardcover, April 2012, ISBN: 9780802723529, 354 pages.
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