Jennifer Shaw's novel "Breaking Beautiful" is hard to put down after reading
just a few pages. This high school drama highlights an issue that often goes
unnoticed until a tragedy strikes, but it's a common issue in various
degrees in many relationships of all ages.
Allie was thrilled to move to
Pacific Cliffs as her father neared retirement. She had visited the small
coastal town every summer to visit her grandmother. It was where her mother
grew up. Finally, after so many moves with the Army, Allie was looking
forward to putting down roots and making real friendships. The only thing
that mars the move is that her summer friend, Blake, has moved to Reno with
his drug-addicted mother and gotten himself sent to "juvie."
When she is singled out by the school's most popular senior and becomes
his girlfriend, she has no idea what path her life has taken. Tripp had been
dating the most popular girl in school, who immediately makes it impossible
for Allie to make any true friends. Therefore, Allie finds Tripp becoming
the center of her entire world. When Blake returns to Pacific Cliffs to live
with his grandmother again, Tripp will not allow Allie to have anything to
do with him. But then again, Tripp calls her twin brother, Andrew, who
suffers from cerebral palsy, a freak; buys her a cellphone that he uses to
keep track of all her movements; and wants Allie at his beck and call at all
hours of the day or night.
Ms. Wolf gives us all of this background material of Allie's last year
through flashbacks. Most of the time the incidents are scattered and
incomplete because Allie is recovering from the accident that killed Tripp
when his truck went off the cliff into the Pacific Ocean. Allie is not sure
why she survived. In fact, at the beginning of the story she can remember
nothing about the night of the accident. She was found on the side of the
road, by the guardrail at the cliff, with two severe head wounds.
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Allie's isn't sure the struggle to bring her memory back is a
good thing. The student body of the high school is mourning the loss
of a favorite, but all Allie can remember are the bruises and cuts
that came when she angered Tripp. She can't tell her mother, as
Tripp's father is her employer. Her father has been gone most of the
year and is now struggling to start a business. Who else would even
begin to believe her?
Most of us would at first shake our heads and wonder why Allie or
any girl had taken the abuse for so long. However, it's easy to make
that judgment from the outside. Ms. Wolf has done a tremendously
thorough job of casting a story where the reader fully understands
the difficulty an abused person has in realizing what is happening
as the spiral continues downward. She lets us feel the fear of the
abused that they are at fault and that without the abuser they are
While Allie and others in the novel make choices they should not
have made, perhaps their mistakes won't be repeated by others in
similar situations. I believe this novel should have a place on all
young adult bookshelves, where concerned adults can recommend it to
girls whom they suspect are abused. It is a great cautionary tale
for any young woman who is dating or in any kind of relationship.
"Breaking Beautiful" is a truly satisfying read that will break
your heart and give your spirit hope. You can find it in the Youth
Services Department of the Lincoln Public Library, 725 Pekin St.
[By LOUELLA MORELAND, youth services librarian,
Lincoln Public Library District]
Ms. Lou's blog: