Oh YA, just when I started losing faith in you as a genre, there's another beautiful story about female friendship that makes me fall in love with you all over again. Beautiful Broken Things might not be flawless, but just as Tonight The Streets Are Ours and I Was Here, it's another great book that shows the complexity of teenage female friendships.
I was brave
She was reckless
We were trouble
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
As the summary kind of indicates, Beautiful Broken Things explores the dangerous aspects of befriending someone who has had a rough childhood and developed her own mental issues because of it.
While the story is told from Caddy's perspective, the story really revolves around Suzanne and the task of figuring out exactly what happened to her before she came to Brighton and befriended the girls. This is Caddy's main goal of the story: she feels like a boring person and wants to change her life by rescuing someone else. This is not always clear to Caddy herself, but as a reader, this comes through very early in the story. If she saves Suzanne from herself, she'll be more exciting too, right?
But can Suzanne be saved? I adore the way Suzanne was written in this story. It is so hard to write female teenage characters with mental issues without turning them into a walking cliché (I love you, but I am looking at you, John Green), but Sarah Barnard manages it seemingly effortlessly. Suzanne's issues alternate between being very serious to just barely noticeable, depending on how she is feeling and handling her problems. I loved that she was never just "a problem child," but that, through Caddy's unjudging eyes, we really get a glimpse at the girl Suzanne could have been.
The only thing I didn't like about this story was the role of Rosie. The beginning of the book is completely about how close Caddie and Rosie are and how special their bond is. Suzanne walks in and causes trouble - trouble Rosie can see while Caddie can not. Rosie repeatedly warns Caddie, but for some reason Caddie doesn't even listen to her. I felt like she should have listened to Rosie more and taken her feelings into account if they were such good friends. That part of the plot just didn't ring true to me and seemed like an easy way to get Rosie, the voice of reason, out of the action.
But overall, I loved reading this story. The writing is great and I really felt for Caddie and her mission to save Suzanne. This is one of those cases where YA works really well for an older audience too; as an older reader, I realised that Suzanne would not be able to be saved, but I loved Caddie's dedication and loyalty to her friend anyway. This book is a great read to show the importance of female friendships, while at the same time showing the risks that come with unhealthy friendships.