Welcome to my stop on the What Beauty There Is blog tour! Huge thanks to The Write Reads for giving me the opportunity to take part in this! I was provided a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
CW: suicide, child abuse, murder, drug use
One day Jack comes home from school to find his mother dead in her bedroom. Now, with his mum gone and his dad in prison, he is the only one left to look after his younger brother Matty. Determined to ensure Matty won’t end up in foster care, Jack sets off to find the drug money that caused his dad to end up in prison. However, Jack isn’t the only one looking for it… Ava Bardem’s father controls everything she does and has been for the last seventeen years. He taught her not to love or trust anyone. But when she meets Jack and Matty will she remember these lessons, or will she defy her father for the first time to help Jack find the money her father believes is his…?
I loved Jack and Matty, their brotherly relationship was so touching and it was lovely to see how protective Jack was of Matty and how he would do whatever he could to keep his little brother safe. Although at times it didn’t seem like Jack was making the best decisions for them, that was understandable as he is only a teenager and definitely did not have role models in his parents. Matty simultaneously felt his age and a little older at times. He would ask questions with a childlike innocence and curiosity, but sometimes these questions came from a very perceptive place almost too perceptive for a child of his age.
I thought Ava was an interesting character to add to the mix. I liked the way that her voice framed the narrative, it was such a unique way to tell this story and also added another layer of mystery. I did like Ava as a character and I enjoyed how she brought two different sides of this story together, however I didn’t bond with her as much as we didn’t see as much of her as we did the boys. Which also made the strong bond between Ava and Jack a little confusing, however, despite this due to the upbringing they both have it wasn’t totally out of place. Additionally, it was nice to have someone trying to help look after Jack as he was trying to be strong for Matty.
In addition to these protagonists, there are a few side characters who also made a lasting impression. Although he isn’t in the book often, the way Anderson presented Bardem was very effective: he was very menacing and unsettling, especially as he was always ready to resort to murder if he felt it was necessary. I really liked the contrast between Bardem and Doyle, a classic villain and classic hero. The fact that Anderson can brilliantly build up characters in just a matter of paragraphs highlights how talented she is as a writer.
I thought the plot was interesting and fast paced. I think the novel could have benefitted from being slightly longer, in part so aspects of the plot could be further developed and in part because I really enjoyed Anderson’s writing and wanted more of it! Whilst the plot centred around the mysterious missing briefcase with money; I found I was invested in seeing whether things would work out for the brothers, regardless of whether they found the money or not. I was equally invested in finding out more about Ava and what happened to her to be narrating the beginning of the chapters the way that she did.
Overall, this was a great and addictive read; I was desperate to get to the end and find out what happened to the characters. I loved the way Anderson crafted and developed Jack, Matty and Ava and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future!