Note: This review contains spoilers regarding Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard.
Beautiful Broken things is a contemporary YA by Sara Barnard about three friends, Caddy, the narrator of the novel, Rosie and Suzanne. Caddy and Rosie have been best friends since they were young and Suzanna moves to the area when they are all fifteen/sixteen which causes a few ripples. Suzanne moved to get away from her abusive step-father which is something the novel also deals with in depth.
This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me; some things I liked, some things I wasn’t so sure about. Firstly, as Barnard covers in her notes section at the end of the novel, it is interesting to read a story that takes place once a character is out of an abusive situation, especially one that goes against the so often constructed narrative of leaving an abusive situation being a happy ending.
Secondly, I really love Caddy’s big sister Tarin who, as part of an overall theme of mental health and what good and bad mental health are and mean, is bipolar. She is also amazing. She shows that people shouldn’t and can’t be defined by any mental health issues they may have and is an all round great character. I would definitely want to be friends with her in real life!
Another character I really loved was Rosie which is kind of where my enjoyment of the novel wavers a little. Rosie is a big part of the goings on of the novel but she is actually absent for much of the narrative as Caddy narrates and a lot of the events picked up on concern Caddy and Suzanne. I would have loved to see more of Rosie even to the point where I think I would have loved this book if it was maybe duelly narrated by Caddy and Rosie. There were a few instances where Rosie and Suzanne told Caddy the other acted differently in school than they did around Caddy and it would have been interesting to actually witness this rather than just hearing about it, sometimes quite cryptically.
For me personally, having a duel narration might also have been a good thing because at times I found Caddy slightly irritating. Sometimes, she did come across as extremely gullible and naiive. I understand that there were times when this wasn’t the case for example when she and Suzanne went to Reading I feel like she was convincing herself that Suzanne hadn’t planned for them to stay the night the whole time, but at other times I felt like she was just a bit oblivious. To be fair, I am quite gullible and naiive myself I might be falling into the old cliche of finding a character frustrating because they are like myself, I just feel like I might have enjoyed doses of Rosie’s sarcasm and attitude juxtaposed with Caddy.
Overall though, this was a good book. I really love Sara Barnard’s writing style, it’s very direct, not much beating around the bush. It’s also slightly weird (in a good way) to read YA that takes place in Britain. So much of the YA I read takes place in America that it’s a bit of a shock to the system when characters are talking about places like Cardiff and I’m just like ‘omg…i know that place!’
It is probably worth noting too that I perhaps didn’t enjoy this novel so much just because I liked the other Sara Barnard novel I have read, A Quiet Kind of Thunder, so much and this novel didn’t quite reach the same level for me. I also read One Of Us Is Lying just before this novel and that was one of my favourite reads of the year so far so pretty much anything was going to be a slight comedown!
Anyway, like I said I enjoyed this novel on the whole, it just wasn’t one of my favourites of the year.