Genre: UKYA Contemporary
Goodreads Summary: Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.
I should’ve loved Beautiful Broken Things. I was so ready to. A book highly praised by everyone I had talked to, and completely focusing on the complexities of female friendships? I thought this was a sure win for me. However I found myself distinctly disappointed.
My main problem with the book was the main character, Caddy. Now I am all for unlikable, moody and unapologetic characters but Caddy to me was just downright naive and mean sometimes. I know there are people who relate to her and that’s great, but personally I had the opposite reaction. Within the first twenty pages of the book, Caddy states that she is ‘boring’ and ‘uninteresting’ because nothing significant has happened to her. And by ‘significant’, Caddy means something like her sister’s mental illness, or her best friend’s baby sister dying and her dad walking out. This way of looking at personal tragedy actually angered me and I almost put the book down at that point. But due to all the good reviews, I kept going because maybe she would have a great character arc and realise her thinking was problematic at the end?
I won’t give anything away, but I wasn’t 100% satisfied. Caddy also does other problematic things throughout the book, which at times in my opinion were just downright nasty.
I thought Suzanne and Rosie were both more likable characters but I still did have problems with them. I found I tended to agree with Rosie the most, however she did have a tendency to slut-shame and whilst I understand it’s something teenage girls do still do a lot, it still didn’t sit well with me. Suzanne has had a difficult past and I did like the way her character was done and the way her past was handled. The book really explored her mental illness and how even though she was now removed from her abusive environment, it still had a profound effect on her. I haven’t read many YA books that tackle this subject so honestly and I did appreciate that. I think Sara is a good writer and I would read another book by her because I did enjoy her style. I’m glad this is a book that exists and that explores how complex and consuming female friendships can be, particularly during adolescence.
In terms of pacing and structure I think there was definitely room for improvement. I felt like the first half dragged, and the climax and resolution feel very rushed in comparison to the build-up. I think a bit less build-up and more time spent resolving the events of the novel would’ve improved my experience with this book.
Overall, there were a lot of things about this book I can recognise that are realistic, but I just didn’t like them. And I can see why so many people are praising and loving this book, but I just had so many problems with the characters, and as this is a character-driven story, I found myself just not enjoying my reading experience. I understand a lot of the reasons I dislike this book though come from a very personal place that I won’t delve into, so I do think you should check out this book if you’re interested and form your own opinion. What I will say is I’m glad this book exists and is becoming so successful as I hope it inspires other YA authors to write about the complexities about female friendship as it is such an important and yet relatively unexplored topic in YA.