Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review - Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell

I believe in Chloe and chocolate.
I believe the best part is always before.
I believe that most girls are shifty and most guys are dumb.
I believe the more you spill, the less you are.
I don't believe in life after death or diuretics or happy endings.
I don't believe anything good can come of this.

"Riley Rose doesn't want to be at Spirit Ranch Holiday Camp. Riley wants to be partying with her best friend Chloe. She has a plan to get away from the jumpsuit-wearing counsellors, the feel-good mantras, do-gooder campers and the monotonous schedule of team-building exercises and outdoor activities.

But Spirit Ranch is not what it appears. Secrets abound - a missing shroud, an abandoned house, a boy called Bird. And why the hell doesn't anyone want to talk about the accident that landed the mysterious Dylan in a wheelchair last year?"

I truly enjoyed reading this book, and once I'd started, I couldn't stop until I'd finished it. Howell's writing is gorgeous and just flows. Her descriptions drew me so into the book that I forgot any other world but the one she invoked. I could see the camp, the bush, the cottage, the lake, as if I were another character in her book. It was stunning, and kept me turning the pages to experience more.

It is the characters, however, that make this book. As the title states, Everything Beautiful is a love story about the broken and the broken-hearted, and each character is not what they first appear. So many of them hide a part of themselves, and the joy of the book is discovering their truths. I have always especially enjoyed books where the characters incite real emotion from me, where I become seriously invested in them. Everything Beautiful is such a book.

There are characters I love - from Sarita, the shy Indian girl contolled by her dull parents and so desperate to shine; to quirky siblings Olive and Bird, whom I want to hug as much as Riley always does. From Neville, a councellor with a secret who has my respect for still being sure of himself; to Fleur, who starts out as just another snooty bitch but is as broken as the rest of them.

Then there are some that made me so mad I am inclined to say I hate them...though that may be too strong a word. Less than like them? Craig, the beautiful heartthrob who unfortunately doesn't have the heart to match; and Richard and Ethan - oh, how I wanted to reach in and slap these narrowminded two. It's a great author who can create such diverse characters that I become invested even in those I don't necessarily like.

It is Riley and Dylan however, and their relationship, that makes Everything Beautiful a novel I'm glad to have read. After losing her mother to cancer and her father marrying new age Norma not long after, Riley has lost hope and faith in the world around her. She is a broken girl acting anything but, and it is literally heartbreaking being center stage to her bravado while knowing the whole time how much she hurts. Bit by bit Riley lets herself show as she develops relationships with those at Spirit Ranch, and they'll change her life forever - especially her relationship with Dylan, the mysterious boy in a wheelchair she bonds with as they both try to remain uninvolved. Riley is determined to fix Dylan, but they mend each other, and it makes my heart swell just thinking about it!

Personally, Dylan is my favourite character. I felt drawn to him the most, and in a wheelchair myself (though not from any terrible accident) I laughed out loud at the truth of his "Wheelchair 101". Yes, people are either starers or avoiders; and the chair is an extension of the body - I honestly feel it when someone touches my wheelchair. Most people don't realise or understand that, and finding it so plainly in Howell's novel won me over to no end.

I finished Everything Beautiful with a huge smile on my face, full of hope and faith. Howell has written a thoroughly enjoyable, gorgeously written novel. It is my first time reading her, and I look forward to reading her other novel Notes from the Teenage Underground.

PS. How much do you love the cover? Beautiful!


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