Today I am delighted to be helping out on the Write Reads Tour for ‘What Beauty There Is’ the debut YA mystery/thriller by Corey Anderson, which is due for release early April.
*Disclaimer: ‘I was given a copy this book in exchange for an honest review, all views are my own.’*
When everything you love is in danger, how long can you keep running to survive?
Life can be brutal
Winter in Idaho. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.
Jack knew it
Jack Dahl has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he’d die for. Their mother is gone, and their funds are 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.
So did I
Ava lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father, a merciless man, has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one.
Did I feel the flutter of wings when Jack and I met? Did I sense the coming tornado?
But now Ava wants to break the rules – to let Jack in and open her heart. Then she discovers that Jack and her father are stalking the same money, and suddenly Ava is faced with a terrible choice: remain silent or speak out and help the brothers survive.
Looking back, I think I did . . .
The cover for ‘What Beauty There Is’ is starkly beautiful, and I think that is a term that could be applied to the entire novel – from the writing, to the atmosphere that permeates through every page, and to the emotions that you are left with at the end. This is YA, but not like any YA that I have read for quite a while, poignant and tragic, and venturing into the depths of darker themes including suicide and violence, among others, so this is not a book to pick up if you are looking for a lighter read. But, if you want a book that will coil around you, sink its claws in and compel you to keep reading until the very end then this is one for you and more than worth picking up.
That feeling of stark beauty is further conjured by the setting that Anderson has created for this story, from the wintery landscape to the way Jack and Matty lived in the middle of nowhere. The descriptions are breath-taking, and you really feel as though you are there, breath misting in the air, cold seeping into your bones, and I think that realism, that depth of feeling in the setting was a much-needed anchor for this story that treads a careful line between a plot that could feel a little farfetched, and a story that is grounded in the sheer humanity of the characters.
As much as the events drive the story forward, sometimes at a breakneck pace, it is the main characters – Jack, Matty and Ava – who reach out and take you by the hand and pull you not only into their world and story but into their lives and hearts. It’s through them that we can make sense of the situation, because where some of their actions – especially Jack’s – might seem irrational to the outsider, as we learn more about him, his relationship with his brother and the life they’ve lived it begins to make sense. Similarly, as Ava’s story unfolds, we are pulled into her story as well and your heart can’t help but go out to her, and then to them, as their storylines come together. We spend more time with Jack’s POV and that is perhaps why those were my favourite parts of the book, although I very much enjoyed his developing relationship with Ava, and thought that their growth together and as individuals were well done.
The writing was fantastic from the descriptions to the characterisation, and the sheer emotion conveyed throughout the book. My only complaint is a small one and that there was quite a lot of foreshadowing in this one, particularly with the sections at the start of the chapters, and there were a few places where it felt like it was a little too much and might have had more impact if there had been less. However, it was very much the writing that brought the other aspects together for me, the beauty balanced with action, character with story, mystery and foreshadowing.
This was a beautiful book and one that will linger with me for a while because this was the kind of book that consumes you while you read it and is reluctant to let go afterwards. What Beauty There Is delves into numerous themes throughout the story, and while many of them lean towards darker aspects, and there is loss and just trying to survive in tragic circumstances, there is light in this story. Ultimately this is a story about the characters, about friendships and family, and love and what that can push you to do. It’s a human story, and I think the fact that the characters are younger make that aspect shine all the brighter. It’s the first in a series, but I feel that it wrapped everything up in a very satisfying way, although I will definitely be checking out what else this author does in the future, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
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 Utah with her family. What Beauty There Is is her debut novel.