Title: BEAUTIFUL GIRL
Author: Lida James
Release date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: The Studio/Paper Lantern Lit
I’ve always wanted to be beautiful, but the irony is that you can’t force it—real beauty is when you don’t have to try, it’s just there. You wake up to it, like freshly fallen snow outside your window, and it’s yours to bask in. Real beauty is for people like my roommate, Kate, who float through life.
I don’t float—I run.
Sophomore year at Dutchess College has just begun, and Nicole is still haunted by memories of her first love, Zach. As the changing leaves fall on the stately Hudson Valley campus, she takes solace in running—pushing herself to go harder, faster, to be the best. With the wind blowing through her hair, she can almost convince herself that she is beautiful, that she will find love again.
So when Nico runs, quite literally, into the maddeningly elusive Justin, she’s convinced she’s found the guy to make her forget her ex—despite the warnings of her friends and her straight-edged running partner, Luke.
But when Nico is attacked in the woods after a wild night of partying, everything changes. Suddenly, Nico begins receiving anonymous threats, and she no longer knows where to turn for help—or whether even her close friends can be trusted.
All she wants is to be one of the beautiful girls—the ones who never have to chase perfection. But in order to uncover the truth, she’ll have to face a past she had hoped to leave behind forever. She thought she could outrun the darkness, but darkness has a way of catching up…and only one boy can save her.
Note: This review is based on an eARC received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.
BEAUTIFUL GIRL is a dark and intriguing story with gorgeous writing, an array of disturbing, maddening, sympathetic, likable and detestable characters facing a number of tough issues, and a chilling and suspenseful mystery. It’s the story of a girl who is battling the demons from her past, who is trying to find a way to move on from an unhealthy relationship that left her heartbroken, who is trying to be there for her friends who need her help, and who is trying to learn to be strong, to be happy, to like herself.
The weight of the story is immediately apparent, as the author paints a haunting and melancholy picture with the prologue. And as the story progresses things becomes even more serious, even darker and more disturbing. Glimpses of Nicole’s life as a ballerina, of her parents, of her ex-boyfriend Zach, and of the way things used to be with her roommates versus the way they are, reveal a past and present filled with pain and anguish and someone who is desperate to fight to survive it all.
Told using first person narrative, readers will be able to more easily connect with Nicole, who is insecure, at times self-absorbed, sympathetic but not always likable. They’ll know only what she knows, when she knows it, adding to the apprehension and building tension. They’ll be able to know just how she feels about her friends and how she perceives them, making them more relatable than they would otherwise be.
Author Lida James took a risk by tackling so many difficult issues in her story – among them assault, stalking, eating disorders, mental illness – introducing a character who is incredibly flawed, and whose friends can hardly be called that. But in doing so she created a story that is distinctive, that allows readers to make an emotional connection – positive or negative – to the story and its characters, and that challenges readers to enjoy a story that might be out of their comfort zone.
BEAUTIFUL GIRL is a sad, scary, twisted, disturbing, hopeful, moving, provocative, engaging, interesting and thought-provoking story and a throughly entertaining read.
Lida James grew up in Brooklyn, New York and graduated cum laude from Vassar College with a BFA in English (and a lot of film credits, too). After working as a cameraperson on feature films in NYC she relocated to Los Angeles in search of mountains and waves. Once there, she wrote and sold screenplays (and snowboarded and windsurfed). She continues to enjoy living in Los Angeles with her husband and their two children—all shredders like herself—and two rescue dogs. Beautiful Girl is her first novel.
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