Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell

Friday, April 24, 2009

From the author of Notes From The Teenage Underground – also an excellent novel – Everything Beautiful charts one week in the life of Riley Rose, as she’s sent to a Christian camp by her father, under the influence of God-bothering stepmother Norma for bad behaviour. Riley is a spirited and tough character, acting out perhaps because of the death of her mother two years earlier. She’s fat, and proud of it. My first impression was that Riley was going to be Saved By God– but this book doesn’t preach to you, far from it.

There’s quite an ensemble cast, and all of the characters are vivid; from the wheelchair-bound and bitter Dylan; to bullied but kind Olive and her quirky brother Bird; all the way to god-fearing Sarita and seemingly vacuous Fleur. The only thing that bothered me about this was because of the number of characters, there wasn’t as much individual character development as I would like in a book – however, it is Riley’s story, and as she grew as a character, she affected and changed those around her.

Everything Beautiful is wonderfully written – certain phrases create fantastic images, and the wording is unique. The voice of the novel is crisp and witty, similar to that of the author’s first novel Notes From The Teenage Underground. I loved the sharp observances and lifelike dialogue – at certain lines I had to stop reading so I could roll on the floor with laughter for a full minute. The descriptions of Little Desert and the surrounding areas evoked a powerful sense of place in only a few sentences; sparse words conjuring striking impressions of both places and people.

I think this is a novel anyone would enjoy reading, and not necessarily just teenagers, unless you have an aversion to themes of drinking, smoking, coarse language, sex, etc, all prevalent in Everything Beautiful. However, these themes are important to the novel, and serve as a true-to-life representation of the age group portrayed.

This is a wonderful book; an easy read which at the same time presents confronting and thought-provoking subject matter. I think any teenager would find it immensely appealing. This is the kind of book I love to read.

Star rating: Eight and a half out of ten
In one word: Meaty

You can find Simmone Howell's blog here.
Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground