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Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard - Review

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Where did I get it? Pan Macmillan via NetGalley, so thank you very much to Pan!

What's it about? Caddy and Rosie are best friends, about to go into their GCSE years at different schools in Brighton. Caddy is at a private girls' school and has just turned sixteen. She wants three things to happen in the next year: to get a boyfriend, to lose her virginity, and to have a Significant Life Event. All the bad things that she knows of have happened to people she knows and not to Caddy. For example, her sister was very unwell when Caddy was little, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

Now, this premise kind of annoyed me a lot, because I'm someone who's had maybe a lot of Significant Life Events and who had a lot of them happen before I was the age that Caddy is. I found her romanticising of those types of events very annoying and didn't warm to Caddy until maybe a third of the way through the book.

A new girl, Suzanne, starts at Rosie's school and Caddy soon feels threatened by their friendship. Suzanne is funny and exciting and new, and Caddy feels dull and boring in comparison. Then she discovers more about Suzanne's traumatic past and she becomes friendly with her too. 

I felt for Caddy when she described being a middle-of-the-road student at her school, I empathised very much with this. I really liked the playlists and music mentioned in the book, it was very much my kind of music and I'll have to see if anyone has made Spotify lists of songs mentioned! I loved the friendships between all the girls; they felt very real and flawed but with beautiful and loving parts too. I believe that was part of the author's intention - in the back of the book she describes is as a love story with no romance and it's true. I liked the book a lot, even though I felt it had flaws. 

What age range is it for? 15+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No, I would have liked that to be honest
Are any main characters people of colour? No
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes
Is there any sex stuff? Not much - there's a little bit of discussion around consent which I thought was good. 
Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, nothing too strong but some. 
Is there any talk of death? Yes, and trigger warning for suicide too 
Are there swear words? Yes, just they're judiciously used 
Would I recommend the book? Yes. When I started I was pretty sure it would be a seven out of ten for me, because the beginning of the book really annoyed me as I said. But the latter half really lifted the whole thing for me, and even though I felt it had problems, I feel like the message - about girls supporting girls - is an important one. 
How many stars? Eight, with the caveats above.

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