Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: 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 because doing so means delving into 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? Debut writer Jennifer Shaw Wolf takes readers on an emotional ride through the murky waters of love, shame, and, ultimately, forgiveness.
Jennifer Shaw Wolf’s debut novel was on my Spring TBR list! Since I had only read two books on that list (I have trouble when my reading habits are expected to follow some sort of structure) I decided to revisit it before summer made itself known.
Allie is broken after a car accident scarred her and killed her boyfriend, Trip. What’s worse is that Allie isn’t entirely sorry Trip is gone--their abusive, controlling relationship was wearing on her life. The new investigator in town begins to suspect that something is up with the accident when Allie begins seeing her best friend and the town delinquent, Blake. Allie has to work through her hidden memories in order to solve the mystery of why Trip is dead and who she can truly trust in her life.
Breaking Beautiful falls under the increasingly popular “amnesia girl” books, in which the protagonist cannot remember past events that affect her current situation. Throughout the book, she must attempt to remember, usually resulting in bits and pieces of the whole story being unraveled to the reader. This was perfect for the mystery of Breaking Beautiful. Allie has little idea as to where Trip’s body is and why he’s missing/presumed dead. I read through this one really fast because I wanted to figure out who was responsible for the couple’s accident. Even though I didn’t buy into the misdirection (or red herring, if we’re going with true mystery speak), I couldn’t figure out who was responsible until I was told. Well done, JSW!
My issue with this one is that the drama stretched a tiny bit too far. The antagonistic characters were too one-dimensional-evil for my taste. There was absolutely nothing redeemable about Trip or his father to make them well rounded characters. They seemed like soap opera and silent film villains--not really humanized at all. The bad was very black and white when it comes to these people. While abuse is a very black and white issue--it’s straight up bad and shouldn’t be happening--people in real life are rarely so. For this reason, I found the mystery to be a stronger aspect in the story than the character study.
Jennifer Shaw Wolf’s Breaking Beautiful is a mystery-driven story with a darkly human twist. While I thought that the characterization needed some work, the mystery was well-plotted and kept me reading quickly!
Rating: 3.5 - fair/good.