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Review: Beautiful Broken Things

Beautiful Broken Things - Sara Barnard

I received a copy from Netgalley. 

 

I really don't quite know what to make of this book. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either.  I'm not sure what it was that didn't quite work for me. The story of the novel was an interesting one - UK based and set in Brighton so points for being a UK based novel not set in London.

 

 It tells the story of two best friends Caddy, a private school girl and Rosie, her public school BFF and Suzanne, the beautiful new girl who moves to town and comes between the two besties. The public school and private school thing is a big point in the novel.  Caddy goes to a posh school, she’s very intelligent and comes from a well to do family with a social worker type mother who does volunteer work for the Samaritans and a dad who’s a doctor in the hospital. They both have very high expectations for Caddy. Caddy has an older sister Tarin, who is bipolar. Her BFF Rosie she has known for ever had a baby sister who died. These are all big deals to Caddy who calls them Significant Live Events. At nearly 17 not much has happened to her and she really wants it to. She feels dull compared to her sister and Rosie.

 

When I first started reading the novel I found I understood Caddy quite a bit. Caddy is the nice and smart girl with friends who lead much more exciting lives than she does. She parties and drinks, but doesn’t seem to go out as often as Rosie does. Been there, done that. So as a reader it was easy to understand where Caddy was coming from. But the more I read, the more Caddy started to irritate me. Rosie introduces Caddy to her new school friend Suzanne who has moved to Brighton and lives with her Aunt Sarah. Suzanne is pretty, she’s funny and outgoing. And immediately Caddy is jealous, especially since Suzanne and Rosie go to the same school and get to hang out a lot. Again, completely understandable.

 

At one point Caddy is hanging in Rosie’s room and Rosie has left the room and left her Facebook page open. So Caddy has a snoop and finds the link to Suzanne’s profile (Rosie and Suzanne are Facebook friends, Caddy is not Suzanne’s friend on Facebook).  Caddy sees a conversation in comments between Suzanne and someone about the previous night’s Coronation Street (a British soap opera) and something about trigger warnings in the episode that might upset Suzanne if she watches. Rosie comes back in the room and Caddy can’t snoop anymore. Caddy doesn’t understand what ‘trigger warnings’ are. So she looks it up. And then after finding out she gets suspicious about Suzanna’s reasons for being in town and living with an Aunt and not her parents. So the next day when she’s hanging out with Rosie and Suzanne and some of their friends, Caddy BRINGS UP THE CORONATION STREET EPISODE AND ASKS ABOUT IT KNOWING FULL WELL IT WILL GET A REACTION OUT OF SUZANNE. 

(show spoiler)

 

It was stupid and bordering on cruel. But Caddy, for someone who’s supposed to be smart and nice, doesn’t think twice about this and gets a reaction out of Suzanne. Suzanne is upset and leaves. Caddy does chase after her to apologise. Somehow, after that Caddy and Suzanne become friends.  The novel progresses exploring the friendships between the three girls and the difficulties between the very different personalities. Caddy seems to be dragged along a lot. Suzanne is enigmatic and charming. As it turns out, Suzanne has some pretty dark secrets and a horrible background.

 

Spoilery – but a big part of the novel and something I need to mention.

 

Suzanne comes from an abusive home, she has been beaten by her father for many years and the rest of her family don’t seem to be doing much to help. Eventually Aunt Sarah stepped in and took Suzanne in. Caddy is naturally horrified when she finds out.  What set off Caddy finding out about all of Suzanne’s history was because she saw her father at a movie theatre and freaked Suzanne out completely. She shuts down. Caddy learns more when she tries to talk to Suzanne a few times and Suzanne is suffering from depression and none of the adults seem to get this. At another point in the story the aunt tries to convince Suzanne to go home for Christmas for family’s sake. The family with the father who has been beating her for years. Because maybe things will be better.  This is from the Aunt who is supposed to be helping make things better?!? Suzanne is “difficult and rebellious” for not wanting to agree to this.

(show spoiler)

 

 Suzanne has a wild party girl persona, doesn’t seem to care about rules or schoolwork or anything. All she wants to do is hang out, have fun and party. Nothing unusual for a teenager. She goes out, drinks, smokes weed and kisses all sorts of boys. Fair enough, again, it’s what kids do.

But when she breaks off with one boy who treats her terribly, they have a huge fight, Suzanne throws a chair and is suspended. Then later on, Caddy finds her at a party in a deep make out session with the same boy.

(show spoiler)

And doesn’t get it.   Caddy finds herself pulled into Suzanne’s charm and the desire to be more rebellious herself.

 

Which has dramatic consequences for her relationships with Rosie and her parents. Caddy has never broken rules or sneaked out or anything (that her parents know about) before Suzanne came along. Suzanne is branded a bad influence and Caddy is told several times to stay away. Even though Suzanne has horrible circumstances in her life, she’s acting out instead of getting help and no one wants Caddy to drag herself down.

 

Caddy of course is becoming more and more protective and closer with Suzanne as a friend and won’t listen to anyone’s warning. Her own behaviour starts getting a bit worse. Caddy herself is quite happy to go along with the flow. She’s finally doing something exciting and damn the consequences. It’s a sort of amusing look at – well so what if I’m sneaking out and drinking and partying a bit more – parents will yell but the world will still turn.

 

But of course it all goes a step too far and something one night that was supposed to be a bit of midnight fun goes hideously wrong and it’s a wakeup call for everyone.

 

Except for Caddy. Who is a complete idiot by this point.

Even Suzanne by the end shows some incredible character growth and pulls her head out her ass.

(show spoiler)

Though all Caddy seems to think about is losing her friend. Yes, I can get that she’s sad about that. But that friend’s actions have put Caddy in some serious danger. And there were serious consequences.

Even Suzanne knows this and has worked towards realising the help she needs and found adults who can provide this.

(show spoiler)

At least the two of them will have their fun memories to look back on and both are very grateful for that.

 

It’s certainly a moving look and friendships and the lengths that teen girls will go to for each other when a close companion is suffering and no grownups seem to understand. Caddy has Suzanne’s back when everyone they know seems to turn against her.  There’s also a very moving author’s note at the end about what inspired the novel and why it’s Caddy’s story and not Suzanne’s. There’s also some very helpful links and addresses for UK teenagers who may be dealing with any number of the series issues raised in the novel.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Pan MacMillan for approving my request to view the title.