Beautiful Broken Things is the first book I’ve read where I found the most similarities between my experiences and situation in real life, and the ones faced by the characters in the story. Both my experiences and my situation aren’t unique because oftentimes, you’ll see them in moving pictures, read them in text, and hear them from words spoken or sung. Even so, I couldn’t just not see myself in Caddy, Rosie and Suzanne. However, it’s unfortunate that despite such similarities, I cannot bring myself to feel more for this book.
The first reason is that Caddy is sadly, a ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’—and not the kind I love as well. There is no sob story attached to Caddy who simply pities herself because she has never experienced any “Significant Life Events” [SLE] (p.9). Though, as one reads further into the story, one will find that the SLE is pretty much synonymous to tragic/bad events. She thinks of herself as a walking cliché because her life is “…ordinary, hopelessly average…” which is something I find tremendously amusing because apparently, getting a boyfriend and losing her virginity before the end of her teenage years would make her less of a cliché (pp. 7-11).
Truthfully, I do understand why Caddy holds the belief that an SLE makes a person’s life more interesting. It’s a conversation starter, a conversation continue-er, and also a conversation ender. For someone who isn’t really used to talking a lot, or for someone who can’t handle awkward silences, talking about SLEs can help. Not everybody wants to be the inexperienced/silent one when it comes to conversations where just about every other party is actively involved in, no? Yes, the ‘examples’ used for what can constitute to an SLE is appalling, but there is no denying that death and mental illnesses are a type of SLE. I’m not saying this because I’m an insensitive person or anything like that, but rather, as a person—a daddy’s girl—whose father has died ten days before the start of her college years, and whose life has changed after that. I cannot say that my father’s death is insignificant because it is an incredibly significant life event for me.
Other than that, the change of Caddy’s jealousy of Rosie choosing to get close to Suzanne, to acceptance and friendship, is well written. Some might find Caddy petty for the things she has done out of her jealousy towards Suzanne and her fear of losing Rosie’s friendship, but I can understand because there’s no solid fact that ten years of friendship can’t be lost because of something stupid. People change, people lose interest, people can be too stubborn to even say sorry. As they all say, ‘shit happens’.
As for Rosie and Suzanne…well, even though I do see some bits of myself in them too, they aren’t exactly stellar characters. In fact, they’re actually just your typical ‘Best Friend’ and ‘Beautiful Girl who has Tragic Backstory’ characters. Even if they did become more realistic at points, they were pretty much flat characters for the majority of the story. Furthermore, the parents, guardians and adult figures in this book are rather terrible at being what they are. I know it’s tough—life is tough, but seriously, what kind of good person would tell the child their taking care of, who has also be abused, that s/he is a burden? Why bother even helping in the first place when you’re just going to do that? It doesn’t take a genius to realise that things won’t be going smoothly! Also, the absentee/workaholic parent(s) trope appears here. Sure, there are absentee/workaholic parents in real life, but can’t more of the new YA books have normal, average parents for the main characters?
Anyway, I think Sara Barnard did well for this book. Not as great as I’d like, or as great as I think it can be, but it was alright enough. Most of the characters need to be fleshed out better, and perhaps the story can be a little less clichéd. Really, who didn’t see the ending coming? It’s so obvious, especially when one has read similar books before. By the way, I love Tarin. She’s perhaps one of the best older sister character I’ve read in a YA book so far.