Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard (proof) - I was brave
She was reckless
We were trouble
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 realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own. From Goodreads.
Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard is a novel I was really excited to read when I first heard of it. A story of strong female friendship, but also of self-destructive behaviour! But unfortunately, I was a little disappointed.
Caddy and Rosie have been best friends since they were young children, and going to different secondary schools hasn't changed their friendship. But when Suzanne moves to the area and becomes friends with Rosie, Caddy starts to get jealous. Suzanne is beautiful and exciting, a better match for interesting Rosie than she is, and Caddy resents their friendship, and how suddenly it's now Caddy, Rosie and Suzanne rather than just the two of them. When Suzanne reveals the reason she moved is because she was being physically abused by her step dad, Caddy softens towards her; she's had a tough time and is trying to make friends and move forward, not steal friends. Once Caddy starts to get to know Suzanne better, she realises how fun Suzanne is. Soon the two are spending time away from Rosie, sneaking out and taking risks. But Suzanne is still struggling to deal with what happened to her, and Caddy's attempts to help seem to lead the two into more trouble. But how can Caddy turn her back on Suzanne when she's the only one who seems to be on her side?
Beautiful Broken Things is the story of the strong bonds of friendship, but also of how abuse physical leaves more damage than just broken bones and bruises. Although Suzanne is now away from her abusive step dad, she's still suffering with the mental effects of the abuse. The feeling that she wasn't good enough, how it went on for years and no-one really helped her - not her mother, and her older brother did what he could, but he was only young himself, and wonders why her step dad, the only dad she's ever known, didn't love her. There's so much pain and sadness in her, she acts out in an attempt to escape it, to distract her from what she feels, to feel something other than all this pain. Although Caddy knows about Suzanne's problems, she doesn't really know how to help her. She's young herself, and thinks being on Suzanne's side and supporting her is what Suzanne needs, not realising she's only enabling her, helping her along her path of self-destruction.
I feel the description for Beautiful Broken Things is a little misleading. It makes out that together Caddy and Suzanne get up to more dangerous, "exciting" things than they do. There are two instances, which I won't spoil, that are pretty shocking, but otherwise, nothing out of the ordinary. Sure, I don't want teenagers sneaking out their house to walk the streets in the early hours of the morning, but unfortunately, it's not unheard of, teenagers put themselves through these risks all the time. There's a lot less of Caddy being brave and Suzanne being reckless actually on the page that you'd expect. There are more conversations through which you see Suzanne's attitude that you see how Suzanne's experiences have affected her, more than actual page time to getting up to "trouble". It's more about the friendship.
The subject matter is hard and difficult to read about, and it left me with a heavy heart. However, I wasn't as emotionally invested in the story as I would have liked, and the reason for this is Caddy. Caddy narrates the story, but I couldn't care less about her; I didn't like her, I didn't dislike her, I wasn't interested in her or her narration. I would have much preferred the book to be narrated by Rosie or Suzanne herself, but if it was, it would be a completely different story; the events might be the same, but we would see it from a different point of view. Caddy and Suzanne's friendship ends up stronger than Rosie and Suzanne's, there are things Rosie doesn't know, events she's absent from, and how she reacts to Suzanne's behaviour is completely different. As I said at the beginning, this is as much a story about friendship as it is about recovering from abuse, so we need Caddy's narration for how deep their friendship goes as it develops and for how hard she tries to help Suzanne, despite helping in the wrong way. Her narration is needed for this particular story. Unfortunately, she's just not a character that brought out any real emotion in me.
Beautiful Broken Things is hugely important, a book that will open conversation that's needed, and one I'm sure is going to be a novel that many will love. A really interesting novel that will open eyes and get people talking.
Thank you to Macmillan Children's Books for the proof.
Published: 11th February 2016
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Sara Barnard's Website