Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard
Published by Macmillan Children’s Books in 2016
My copy: Paperback
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.
When I first started this book, I thought it seemed quite light and fluffy, and maybe suited to younger pre-teens. But reading on, I soon realised I was way off the mark! It is definitely not a sweet tale of female friendship – it is a bit deeper than that.
Our narrator is 16-year-old Caddy, who is desperate to shake up her fairly ordinary life. When Suzanne becomes friends with Caddy’s best friend Rosie, she feels her friendship with Rosie is threatened – but then she finds herself drawn to Suzanne and her mysterious past.
This novel deals with a range of issues, and has a smattering of swearing, sex, drugs and drinking. But the main issue is that of mental health and abuse. Suzanne has had a dark past and it is her character that is most interesting and we slowly find out more about where she is from and what has happened to her.
I said at the start of this review that this isn’t a sweet book about female friendship – but in many ways the relationship between the three girls is at the very heart of this novel, and it is the dynamic between them that makes it such a readable, interesting book. I found them all very believable and I liked their different, sometimes clashing, sometimes complementary characteristics. The mystery about Suzanne worked well as it makes you want to read on, and I also liked the way Caddy and Rosie dealt differently with these problems and towards Suzanne herself.
There are also some other interesting aspects to the novel that aren’t explored in depth, but add another dimension all the same, such as Caddy’s relationship with her father, which offers up an interest contrast to Suzanne’s relationship with her stepfather. I also liked the descriptions of the parts of Brighton where this book is set, and even of the girls’ bedrooms, which again reflect their personalities very cleverly.
Overall I found this a thoroughly likeable novel, with great characters and good plot. The ending is bittersweet, which I felt was fitting for the book, and I think the way it dealt with mental health was very good too and would definitely provide interesting food for thought for young adult readers –and older readers alike.