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26 June 2011

Review of Beautiful by Amy Reed

"This must be what it feels like to be a piece of meat, to be wanted by someone hungry. This is all I have to do. This is easy. I am delicious."

When Cassie moves from the tiny town where she has always lived to a suburb of Seattle, she is determined to leave her boring, good-girl existence behind. This is Cassie's chance to stop being invisible and become the kind of girl who's worth noticing. 

Stepping into her new identity turns out to be easier than Cassie could have ever moment, one choice, will change everything. 

Cassie's new existence both thrills and terrifies her. Swept into a world of illicit parties and social landmines, she sheds her virginity, embraces the numbness she feels from the drugs, and floats through it all, knowing that she is now called beautiful. She ignores the dangers of her fast-paced life?but she can't sidestep the secrets and the cruelty. 

Cassie is trapped in a swift downward spiral tinged with violence and abuse, and no one—not even the one person she thought she could trust—can help her now.

Cassie is a 13 year old girl looking for acceptance at a new school.  She finds a crooked sort of reception into a crowd of other lost children and loses herself.  Though the problem seems to be she never knew herself from the beginning.  She says a few pages in, "It is not hard to change when you were never anything in the first place."  

She begins her descent when a young rebel named Alex grabs her by the hand.  "I don't see her coming."  Cassie doesn't see anything coming, doesn't see Alex and her steam roller that is about to crush everything Cassie knows to be “normal”.  

Her fate is sealed with this line: “I cannot think of maybes. I cannot think of 'What if I turned around right now? What if I went the other way?' There is no other way. There is only forward, with Alex, to the boys who want to meet me.”

When Alex takes Cassie's life by the arm and drags her towards the black hole she will become, she says to herself, “Remember, this is what you want.”  She spends much of her time forcing her mind to accept that she is going to do all the things that these other kids want, anything, anytime, anywhere, so that she will be something, be noticed, be loved.
The rest of the story is akin to “going down the rabbit hole” as Cassie falls deeper into madness through engaging in sex, drug use, and alcohol abuse. The author keeps you tuned in at all times to Cassie's emotions, especially when she herself can't quite explain what she is experiencing. “...when really I'm nothing, when really I'm just skin wrapped around fog.”

I love the way the author sneaks in words that create feelings you don't realize are affecting you until later. “Cassie,” James says, and my name sounds like flowers in his mouth.” I can't help but feel how Cassie felt about a boy saying her name; she was completely enamored with the sound. This is just one example, there are many, many more. 

Beautiful was more than just a book I read. I experienced this book as if I were Cassie, as if all her feelings were mine and we were the same mind in the same body. Amy Reed did an exceptional job at making the intangible something you could taste and feel, even if those things were hard to swallow. A 13 year old girl having sex and using cocaine are not things you usually read about, but they happen. This book goes about the telling in a way that you actually understand a little of the why it happens. It lets you in on the deep darkness that creates monsters out of nice girls.

I read a few negative reviews for this book, and though understandable, I think they are misguided. I think I must stand up for this author and her book as much as possible, and say that writing a story like this requires going somewhere a lot of people don't – inside the quiet spaces of your mind – to discover the darkness inside all human beings and share what you find with the world. Great job Mrs. Amy Reed, you shared something through your writing that I could connect with and will never forget.

I don't want to spoil anything, so I will leave it at this:  Read this book.  It is a good read with rough realism.  It will be hard to imagine these young kids doing what they shouldn't be doing, but you won't be able to stop reading.  You will have to find out what happens to Cassie.

I'll leave it at 4 stars, simply because I didn't really care for the ending.  As I said, I will not spoil anything, just want to say that I wanted a different ending.  Still a great book, however.  I definitely recommend it!


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