Rummanah Aasi
  Breaking Beautiful is Jennifer Shaw Wolf's debut novel. Part romance, part mystery, this compelling read offers a story about abuse, guilt, friendship, family, knowing who to trust, but most importantly a girl's struggle to overcome guilt and her journey to recovery. Breaking Beautiful is expected to release on April 24th and I highly recommend you check it out.   

Description: Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a horrible car accident, including her memory of the event. As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember and to reveal what she's kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship. When the police reopen the investigation, it casts suspicion on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around town. Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free?

Review: Allie's eighteenth birthday was suppose to be special, but it quickly turned into a nightmare.  She and her boyfriend, Trip, get into a horrible car accident. Trip drives over a cliff and dies, and although Allie survives, her memory of the night is patchy. She refuses counseling, but when a detective comes to her small Northwest town to reopen the investigation, her dark memories of Trip's abuse and the fateful night resurface. Allie is suppose to have survivor's guilt, but that is not what haunts her.  She is disturbed by her memories of Trip's physically and emotionally abuse. Even though she can't remember that fatal night, she is certain that the incident wasn't an accident and wishes that her secrets would have died with him.
  Trip Phillips was the town's golden boy. The son of a very influential and rich family. To be his circle of friends guaranteed popularity. Allie thought she had the privilege to be Trip's girlfriend. The couple's relationship started on a good note, but quickly spiraled down as Trip became physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive. Wolf does a great job in demonstrating the deteriorating relationship in Allie's detailed, short flashbacks triggered either by seeing an object or having a conversation with someone. In the flashbacks we see a once bright girl now reduced to a blank page stripped from her attributes, which is exactly how we find Allie in the present day. Quiet, keeping to the shadows, Allie desperately tries to fall under the radar yet is unable to because of her connection with Tripp. She talks to no one except her twin brother who has cerebral palsy and an outcast Blake who she's known as a childhood friend before they drifted apart.
  I love the scenes with Allie's brother and Blake. Both are fully realized characters and share in Allie's pain of ostracism in their own way, creating her own support group. Though Allie's brother was aware of his sister's troubled relationship, he was frustrated with how he couldn't help her. He begged his sister to tell someone and to get out of it, but Allie was afraid doing so knowing that no one including her parents who relied on the Philips for help would believe her. I was convinced that Allie's parents, particularly her mom, knew what was happening but turned the other way.
  The relationship between Blake and Allie was sweet and slow burning. They reunited as being friends first and slowly developed their mutual trust for each other. What I really liked about Blake was that he didn't deem himself as the hero who would put Allie back together. Wolf avoids the constant and overuse trope of using the abusive relationships as a device for the broken heroine to be saved and made whole by the romantic lead. Blake and Allie's relationship isn't perfect, as they both overcome hurdles of their own. 
  To my delight the book isn't limited to the drama storyline, but has a strong suspenseful and mystery. The case is reopened as suspicious circumstances begin to emerge, and Allie must relive that night and find the courage to speak up about the abuse even though she fears that no one will believe her. I was consumed by the mystery, not really sure whom to trust or the motive behind the accident. The author has done a good job of helping readers understand the accident as it is told in flashbacks yet intertwined with present-day events. The story unfolds in a convincing manner. I was shocked how it ended and it left me wondering how I felt about it. Could I forgive the person who is responsible? Was it an act of defense or murder? The ending is sure to generate lots of great discussion. Thankfully, nothing is left open-ended, which leaves me to believe that Allie is no longer in turmoil, and that she has moved forward.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Some strong language, violence, and underage drinking. Recommended for strong Grade 7 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Stay by Deb Caletti, Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn 
7 Responses
  1. Oooh...this sounds good. There aren't enough YA books about teenage dating violence. And I like that the romance was sweet and slow.

  2. This sounds really good. I love a good familial relationship and this book has drama, mystery and twists and a big shocker ending, oh and it takes place right here in the NW. I wanted to read this got turned down for some weird reason. I will be borrowing this from the library.

  3. danya Says:

    I've been hearing really good things about this one so I'm glad to see you liked it as well, Rummanah! I'm impressed that both the emotional depth and the mystery element are written well, without one compromising the other. I wasn't super interested in this book when I first heard about it, but your review has got me re-thinking that!

  4. What? Her parents turned a blind eye on the fact that their daughter was being abused! That's horrible. And it's such a relief to know that the typical troupe isn't used here. That makes me happy.

    I remember a while back when the author revealed the cover! Her husband took the photo, I think. I've wanted to read the book since then!

  5. "Wolf avoids the constant and overuse trope of using the abusive relationships as a device for the broken heroine to be saved and made whole by the romantic lead." Perfect, now I really want to read this one!

    I love that it's got a little something for everyone. Mystery, romance (which isn't insta-love), great secondary characters, the chance to reflect about a serious topic ... oh, and it's a standalone with a closed ending!

  6. This sounds like a much more complicated story than I expected, which is always a plus. I was drawn to this book ever since I saw it on the list of this year's YA debuts and now I'm even more convinced I want it as soon as possible.
    Great and detailed review!

  7. Rubita Says:

    OMG, her mom! She drove me crazy. I buy the dad not knowing about it because he was only recently out of the Army (Marines?) but I think Allie's mom was determined not to know. It's a special kind of denial. I was highly irritated that things with Allie and her mom were not included in the conclusion. It was a relationship that warranted more than a few sentences.

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