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April 2015

Beautiful Monster (Kate McCaffrey)

Let me start by saying that I had mixed feelings about this book.  

I went in with high expectations.  Beautiful Monster had been recommended to me as a great read, and as I had read In Ecstasy (also by Kate McCaffrey) and thought it to be a highly intelligent and worthwhile book, I was expecting another novel of the same calibre.  In Ecstasy deals with the attractions and dangers of dabbling with Ecstasy as a teenager - everyone should read it!  Beautiful Monster deals with anorexia, another important topic for teenagers...but I found that it just didn't engage.  

The story follows teenager Tess, who, after losing her brother to a terrible accident has to deal with this loss, all the while witnessing her mother breaking apart with grief.  The strained family relationships and Tess' own belief that if she could just be perfect, everything would get better, make for a destructive combination.  These are the bones of a good, emotional story, but I don't think it reached it's full potential.  

Firstly, I don't remember the narrative of In Ecstasy being quite so basic.  In Beautiful Monsters, the character of Tess seems almost one-dimensional.  She is driven by the idea of perfection, yes, she feels ignored by her mother, yes...  but that's about all we can say of her, with very little else to help the reader connect. The other side of the story, which is Tess' relationship with her "friend" Ned is unconvincing... you can see where it is going fairly quickly into the book, but yet the narrative never really fleshes out why Tess should feel so attached to this "relationship".  It just didn't really resonate with me.  I also found the clunky scenes and narrative of Beautiful Monster to be almost Junior Fiction in their complexity, despite tackling what is usually a YA topic.

I dunno.  I still read it, and I thought the epilogue, all two pages of it, was actually one of the best bits of the book.  It's an interesting exploration of the isolation and desperation of anorexia, but it feels like it only skims the surface.  If you want something a bit deeper, I would recommend Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, which is a breathtaking, but fairly depressing read.

I still look forward to reading Destroying Avalon, also by Kate McCaffrey, I just felt Beautiful Monster was not one of her better efforts.


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