Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell
|Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A girl still grieving over the death of her mother finds a kindred spirit at a summer camp for Christians. The central character is spiky and abrasive, but still elicits a great deal of sympathy. Clear-eyed telling and a recognisable emotional landscape.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: January 2009|
Riley is not religious. She does not need Saving. She needs a longer leash and a father whose attention is more on her and less on his new and annoyingly psychobabbling girlfriend Norma. Norma, however, begs to differ. And with the usual diplomacy-challenged attitude of adolescence, Riley manages to behave badly enough for Norma to win the day. Norma and Dad get a holiday. Riley gets a week at Spirit Ranch camp with all the God-botherers and happy clappers.
Oh, the horror!
As you can imagine, God-related activities don't do much for Riley's mood. They don't do much for her behaviour either. Within hours of arriving at the camp, she's rude, rebellious, and obnoxious. She makes enemies amongst the other campers, and she's absolutely determined to stick to her path of sex, drugs and... well... whatever music Australian teenagers rebel to. In Dylan Luck, she finds a fellow misfit and, ultimately, an unexpected friend.
Funny book. Sad book. Real book. Rude book with sex in it. This is a winning recipe in kitchen sink dramas for teenage girls, and when it's done well, it works tremendously well. It's done marvellously here, in Everything Beautiful.
Riley drinks. She takes drugs. She has unsuitable sex. But despite all the high living, she's not happy. However, even Riley can see that the pious rigidity of the Spirit Ranchers isn't going to make her happy either. While going off the rails because your beloved mum has died and your dad has a new girlfriend isn't a recipe for success, tying yourself to a rigid conformity isn't necessarily one either. Riley needs to find the middle ground. Howell shows Riley - and her readers - a possible path through humour, pathos and a clear-eyed honesty.
There's great heart in this book, and no judgmentalism. I really liked it, and I think vast swathes of teenage girls will absolutely love it.
My thanks to the nice people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.
Another girl struggling with her weight appears in Sugarcoated by Catherine Forde. It's a very different kind of book, but it might also appeal.
You can read more book reviews or buy Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.