Wednesday, November 22, 2017

[Review] Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell

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Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 288
Source: Swapped?
Genre: YA {Contemporary}

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity

Book Tunes
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My Rating
4/5 stars
My thoughts

I'm not sure if there was any particular reason why I finally decided to pick this book up, I think I just came to the conclusion that it was time. I didn't know too much about Everything Beautiful other than that it was an Aussie YA book set in a religious summer camp, and therefore would be a good summer read.

Sixteen-year-old Riley Rose is out of control, getting into all sorts of trouble with her best friend and best worst influence, Chloe. Her dad's girlfriend, Norma, suggests that she attends a spiritual Christian camp. Forced against her will and doomed to miss meeting her crush Ben at an upcoming party, Riley is desperate to escape. But much to her surprise, amongst all the suckage she may actually  find something worth believing in, and it isn't God.

I loved Riley, I love how in under 300 pages Howell manages to peel back layer after layer of her character and I liked seeing every different side to her. So she lost her mum to cancer, is overweight but "loud and proud", gets constantly bullied and reprimanded for who she is, and will basically tumble (as in, have sex with) any guy who shows an interest in her. I loved her vulnerabilities, she shows this tough exterior but inside you can see that she just wants to be accepted. I loved her bold and fearless she could be; the crazy stuff that she gets up to and without even seeming to think of the consequences is pretty admirable! I do wish that there had been more of a focus on grieving her mum's death, though.

There is a myriad of colourful characters that Riley meets at Spirit Camp. I found Dylan to be profoundly interesting, I thought the exploration of his accident and its aftermath to be sensitively and authentically approached; more so, I relished his interactions with Riley, they worked together so well! Bird - yes, that's a boy's name - was cute. I liked Sarita's (Riley's cabin-mate) transformation and minute rebellions, her friendship with Riley was so sweet and lovely I was left feeling warm at times. Even some of the Camp's staff members and authority figures had some level of quirkiness to them.

The narrative is sectioned off into Days. The 'intro' begins on Day Five, but then we are transported to the beginning so we see everything that happens during Riley's stay at Spirit Camp. I liked the writing style, Riley's frank tone, expression and thoughts. I found it easy to become absorbed into the narrative, I cared about what happened to Riley and whether she was going to be able to escape the camp.

There is a bit of sexual content - nothing explicitly written, but the act of it is implied. I think Howell explored sexuality in a way that is realistic for teenage readers to relate to. There is even a gay couple and while it is slightly made taboo and this big deal by Riley, the rest of the campers don't seem to care too much about it at all.

Everything Beautiful was an engaging and quick summer read, laden with surprising hidden depths. Riley is a superbly written protagonist, refreshing in her boldness and sharp wit. I enjoyed reading about the many misadventures and mischief that occurs during Riley's time at Spirit Camp, and seeing the character development as her world and mindset changes was satisfying. Certainly a worthwhile read!


"Fleur suddenly asked, 'How much do you weigh?'
... Mum used to say that anyone who used your appearance as ammo was the worst kind of bully - weak and unimaginative. She would have had Fleur pegged. 'If that's the best she can do, then you've already won.''I need air,' I decided. 'Please - don't go through my things. Certain items may offend.' I stood up and flung my bag over my shoulder, and gave Fleur a hard stare. 'And FYI, I weigh eighty-two kilos and I don't give a fuck.' (27)

AUSTRALIA: A&RBooktopia | Boomerang Books

INTERNATIONAL: Abe BooksFishpond

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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