Beautiful (by Amy Reed)

16 03 2013

beautifulamyreedBeautiful by Amy Reed is Thirteen as a book, focusing on a good girl – 13 years of age – gone terribly bad: (unwanted) sex, alcohol, drugs,… you name it, and Cassie is experiencing it. Moved from tiny Bainbridge Island to one of Seattle’s suburbs, Cassie consciously wants leave her good girl image behind. We learn in the beginning that at her previous school she was not one of the popular girl which she desperately wanted to. There the “good girls” were the popular ones. At her new school she wants to be different, popular… and here the popular people aren’t the goody two-shoes, but the bad boys and girls. As such, Cassie befriends Alex, who introduces her to the world of sex, drugs and more.

There’s nothing uplifting about a story like Cassie’s: the friendship with Alex is one based on power. The relationship Cassie has with a popular high schooler is equally one that is based on power and submission. At no point you get the impression that this is something Cassie really wants – despite her initial resolve to “change her image”. It quickly becomes a downward spiral, which is both realistic – such is the way of drugs when mixed with hormonal 13-year-olds apparently – and unrealistic at the same time. Time and again the reader is pointed to the fact that Cassie is really smart, but none of her actions show that. Also the fact that she continues to get all As in the smart classes despite her increasing drug habit is not exactly realistic. At one point there’s a glimmer of hope, when Cassie makes friends with Sarah, Alex’s half-sister who’s been placed in Alex’s family because her father abused her. With Sarah there seems to be a real bond, until that too is of Thirteen2003Postercourse nipped in the bud.

Beautiful hardly tells an original story (Ellen Hopkins fans will love this!), but luckily Amy Reed’s style is fluent and entertaining enough to keep you going. Plotwise, it’s also hard to get past the derivative nature of this book (it really is exactly like Thirteen), but Reed manages to keep her reader guessing at times, for better or worse… What happened to Cassie’s family to have them move in the first place. What’s up exactly with Alex and her mother? What about Cassie’s parents? Again, some of these elements add to the tension, but others just feel more like “underdevelopment. All in all, Beautiful is a bit of a mixed bag: compelling for the tale that is being told, but not exactly standing out in originality or execution…



2 responses

19 03 2013
Short cuts continued… | Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] book that has a perfect movie counterpart is Ally Carter’s Heist Society, which could be best described as Ocean’s Eleven with teens in […]

18 05 2013
Clean (by Amy Reed) | Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] Reed’s debut novel Beautiful didn’t much leave an impression on the cat. However, when a student tells you that the book they […]

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