Ready for a gripping YA read in 2021? I might have just the thing…
What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson
Genre: YA/ Thriller
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Date Published: 8th April 2021
Print length: 368 pages
Trigger warnings: Suicide, violence and injury detail
Jack Morton has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he’d do anything for. Even die for. Now with their mother gone, and their funds quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison. He chooses the money.
Ava Bardem lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one. Trust no one. Now Victor Bardem is stalking the same money as Jack. When he picks up Jack’s trail, Ava must make her own wrenching choice: remain silent or help the brothers survive.
As I seem to keep saying in my reviews, this was another judge-the-book-by-the-cover moment for me. Well, more specifically make-an-assumption-about-the-book before reading it 😂. I briefly glanced at the synopsis a while back and – obviously- didn’t fully take it in, as something in my mind thought maybe this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling?! Of course it doesn’t take a genius to realise that wasn’t the case.
Anderson does not mess around and immediately sets up the bleak circumstances that begin a novel filled with twists and turns. Before things have even started properly, Jack finds his mother hanging in her room, which was an awful scene to read but it set the ball rolling for the exhilarating cat-and-mouse style narrative which followed.
I’m so used to narratives about the nuclear family, or at least pretty functional families, that What Beauty There Is provided a curveball as tragedy catapults Jack into the parental role. Though my heart actually broke for Jack and Matty, I loved how Anderson showcased their relationship. Amongst the harrowing, bleak moments there were also quite tender, sometimes funny moments between the brothers which meant I was truly rooting for them to make it through. I think, through the brother’s relationship, Anderson perfectly communicates how far people are willing to go to protect their families.
Initially, I had no idea how Ava would slot into the narrative – as she was just a girl that Jack had seen at school on one occasion – but I think, as I read on, she had an interesting role in the novel. She had foresight, she knew that some of the decisions made throughout the narrative were wrong before the characters – or the reader – did, and she had an insight into both sides: the brutal, more violent criminal network operated by her father and the two brothers just trying to survive on their own. I think the hints of romance were subtle, which I was glad about (as sometimes YA novels that are supposed to be a bit more gritty and hard hitting lose this by forcing romance down the reader’s throats), and it was more about each characters desire to escape something – as the boys were escaping the chance of being separated and Ava was literally escaping the father who has left her isolated and controlled for as long as she can remember.
Now, I’ll just say this isn’t usually my type of book. I read a lot of books last year but the majority of them were light, easy-reads with all the romance and fluff I can’t get enough of so – coupled with some reviews of this book I’d read – I was pretty apprehensive. I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy this one or, God forbid, I’d DNF it but (despite initial apprehension and it taking me a fair bit of time to get into) I actually liked this book more than I expected.
What Beauty There Is isn’t for the faint hearted. If you’re looking for an easy, light read, this book isn’t it. What this book is, though, is a beautiful, almost lyrical set of prose about loss, family and how far people go to protect family. This book ended in a way that might indicate a sequel, or a series perhaps, and I for one would be up for it (once I get over the book hangover 😂 🤕).
A Few Thank Yous
I wouldn’t have been able to read this book – or participate in this Blog Tour- without a few people, who I’ll thank now.
Thank you Dave and the team at The Write Reads for my spot on the tour. Also a big thank you to the publisher, Penguin Random House, and the writer Cory Anderson for my E-copy of the book via NetGalley. I enjoyed reading it and I hope others will, too.
About the Author
Cory Anderson is a winner of the League of Utah Writers Young Adult Novel Award and Grand Prize in the Storymakers Conference First Chapter Contest. She lives in Farmington, Utah with her family. What Beauty There Isis her debut novel.
You can follow Cory on
What Beauty There Is is available to buy here.
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