Bookish Review: Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Published: February 2015 by Macmillan Children’s Books

Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Issues

Rating: ♥ ♥

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I read Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls not long ago and was disappointed by the portrayal of female friendships so I had high hopes for Beautiful Broken Things especially as it seemed to be receiving rave reviews.

Caddy and Rosie have been best friends since forever, and whilst Rosie is the confident one and Caddy the shy and “uninteresting” one, their friendship is comfortable and stable. Enter Suzanne, the exciting but mysterious new girl and before long, Caddy finds herself overcoming her jealousy of this intruder and thirsting after the freedom and rebellion that Suzanne brings. But Suzanne is running from her own demons and Caddy soon finds herself swept up in a tumultuous friendship.

Sounds great doesn’t it? Sadly, I was very disappointed with this book, and I’m aware I’m in the minority! It took me a while to get through Beautiful Broken Things and honestly? It was a slog. My biggest issue with the book was that for the first 75% we have a ridiculous amount of repetition. Nothing seemed to happen that hadn’t happened once twice multiple times already. Let me explain. Essentially, we had a Groundhog Day-esque loop of situations:

  • Step 1: Suzanne does something reckless
  • Step 2: Rosie gets annoyed and calls her out on it
  • Step 3: Caddy would stand up feebly for Suzanne whilst rejoice in feeling needed
  • Step 4: Suzanne would apologise (I am not even kidding, “sorry” appears a grand total of 88 times in the book!)
  • Step 5: Rosie and Suzanne would make up
  • Step 6: Repeat ad infinitum

And I’m sorry to say but that gets tiresome really quickly. The same can be said for the characters but special shout out to Caddy here (just as an aside, I really couldn’t get over this name, I actually took to calling her Cadence in my head because seriously Cadnam). So the idea is that Caddy, through Suzanne, will finally stop being “uninteresting”. Unfortunately, I felt like Caddy exploited Suzanne’s recklessness to make herself feel needed and validated which was so dangerous for Suzanne who was essentially spiralling out of control and needed support and stability more than anything. Also, I didn’t see any character development in Caddy, she was just as insecure, naive and selfish in the last chapter as the first, and especially at times when her friends needed her. There was one point where I wanted to throw the book across the room because of her sheer idiocy but Rosie’s reply stayed my hand:

Caddy: “How could we know this was going to happen?”
Rosie: “But the thing is, you should have known that something like this could happen. Like, that’s pretty much exactly why people don’t do things like this.”

There were a couple of redeeming features hence the two star rating. First, I appreciated that Barnard portrayed the complexity of female friendships with all of its obsessions, jealousy and conflict without having to rely on any romantic subtext. Teenage female relationships are messy and passionate and sometimes authors seem to feel the need to justify it by weaving in romantic subtext – honestly there’s enough drama in platonic female friendships that you don’t need to amplify it! Secondly, I liked that Barnard was original in looking at the aftermath of abuse in Beautiful Broken Things and how the trauma doesn’t magically just go away once a victim is removed from an abusive situation.

Despite those few positives, the best way I can sum up this book is that I felt like a rubbernecker. You know when there’s been a car crash on the side of the road and drivers slow down to stare as they drive by? Well with Beautiful Broken Things, I was the driver and the book was unfortunately the car crash. Beautiful Broken Things was interesting enough, in a morbid “I know something bad will happen” kind way and that’s why I stuck around (I wanna know how it ends dammit!) And to continue the analogy, exactly as you would with a car crash you’d rubberneck for a minute, maybe two, and then be on your merry way, the whole thing forgotten and filed away as insignificant in the grand scheme of your life. This pretty much sums up my feelings about Beautiful Broken Things – it was just about interesting enough to pique my curiosity but totally forgettable once put down.