Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

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So many books to review, not enough time!  *gets self into a tizz* One book that I NEED to share with you all is Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard.

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard - Famous in Japan

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Publication Date: 11 February 2016
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

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.

Beautiful Broken Things follows best friends Cadnam (referred to mostly as Caddy) and Rosie I have to say whenever I see Caddy I immediately think of Mean Girls (#sorrynotsorry).   Caddy is shy and naive whilst Rosie is outgoing and daring.  The typical two best friends.

All Caddy wants to do with her life is find a boyfriend, lose her virginity and have a “Significant Life Event” that would make her, in her eyes, “interesting“.   However, being shy and naive, as well as attending a private girls only school isn’t going to help her achieve those.   When Rosie makes friends with Suzanne, the new girl in town, Caddy initially feels pushed out (as is the case when a two person friendship becomes three).

The story is told from Caddy’s perspective.  At the beginning of the novel, we get an idea of how naive Caddy is when we see her literally give away her milkshake to a boy who asked her for a taste.  However, when Suzanne arrives into the picture, we see her change.  It starts slowly.  Feeling threatened by Suzanne and worrying she will lose Rosie, she becomes nasty and rude, declining Rosie’s invitations to hang out or go to parties.   Upon a Facebook stalk of Suzanne (come on, we all do it!), she finds something that Suzanne has said she finds upsetting.  Whilst out with friends, Caddy deliberately brings this up in an attempt to “provoke”  Suzanne.  It works, and Suzanne becomes upset.   She confides in Caddy about her past and the reasons why she has moved to a new town.  Suzanne, although young, has a dark past and is currently trying to move on from it and start a new life.   With this secret between them, Suzanne and Caddy spark up their own friendship away from Rosie.  When Suzanne becomes upset at memories of the past, it is Caddy who she reaches for, strengthening their friendship.

As the novel goes on,  Suzanne’s past trauma becomes too much for her to bear on her own.  She spirals downwards, and takes Caddy with her.  Caddy almost relishes this.  It’s almost as if Caddy secretly enjoys being the one who Suzanne relies on, the one Suzanne wants to have “fun” with, rather than Rosie who has always been the fun one.  We see her change even more due to Suzanne’s influence and bad choices, negatively impacting her long standing friendship with Rosie, her relationship with her parents and aspects of her personal life including school.   All this culminates in a Significant Life Event for both Caddy and Suzanne.  I’m not going to lie, this part of the novel had me clutching at my iPad desperately, heart in my mouth and forgetting to breathe!

Suzanne’s past, although difficult to read, was handled very carefully and with a huge amount of sensitivity.  It is stressed, by Suzanne herself, how mental illness should not be portrayed as romantic or beautiful, or something to be aspired to.  You do not need to have an illness, whether it be physical or mental, to make you “interesting”.   As Caddy’s sister Tarin has bipolar disorder, I get the impression Caddy feels she can help Suzanne with her problems, but really all she is doing is encouraging Suzanne’s destructive behaviour.   I think Sara wrote this in to emphasize the importance of  seeking professional help when it comes to mental health.  If you truly love someone and care for them, that is the best thing you can do for them.

Beautiful Broken Things is a modern, relatable coming-of-age story that perfectly captures tumultuous teenage years with a heavy emphasis on issues such as mental illness, friendship and peer pressure.   I was completely sucked into the world of Caddy, Rosie and Suzanne and I didn’t want to put the book down, or for it to ever end.    I loved it.

In YA fiction there is a lot of focus and attention on relationships in a romantic sense but no one really talks about friendships, or indeed the wonderfully complicated and intense world of female friendships.   I think a lot of people will relate to the age old tale of a two person friendship becoming a three person friendship, and the resulting jealously, tension and arguments that flare up as a result.  However, just like Sara Barnard says, “there’s no love quite like that shared between teenage girls” and I wholeheartedly agree.

 Dannie x

A copy of Beautiful Broken Things provided for free in exchange for an honest review. No further compensation received.

January 8, 2016
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