Title: What Beauty There is
Author: Cory Anderson
Release Date: 8/4/2021
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 39
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free physical ARC copy from Penguin Platform ,via The Write Reads Tours in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
An exhilarating, emotionally powerful and superbly written thriller that’s Winter’s Bone meets The Road
Winter. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.
Jack Morton has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he’d do anything for. Even die for. Now with their mother gone, and their funds 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. He chooses the money.
Ava Bardem lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one. Trust no one. Now Victor Bardem is stalking the same money as Jack. When he picks up Jack’s trail, Ava must make her own wrenching choice: remain silent or help the brothers survive.
Choices. They come at a price.*
NOTE: There are al lot of trigger warnings for this book, they can be found HERE on the Book Tigger warnings website. This allows you to make the best choice for yourself as to wither or not this would be a book for you to consume and enjoy.
I am slightly torn by this one and it came out with a higher ESCAPE score than I actually expected. This is both a beautiful sad book, but it is also somewhat hollow. I will explain.
The writing and narrative choices of the book are fantastic. The writing is beautifully structured, lyrical without getting too flowery. It draws you in and keeps your reading. The chapters themselves are very deliberate in there structure. Even in the numbering they build to the turning point and then start to count down the the denouement. Also how we are introduced to the characters. The plot follows two characters Jack and Ava, an almost Romeo and Juliet pairing from different sides of the same tale. At the start of each chapter we have a first person perspective from Ava our principle narrator, she discusses he memories and feelings before switching to narrate the events of Jack’s life and occasionally her childhood.
The plot is incredibly sad, dark and bleak. Jack’s life starts off in an incredibly dark place and it just gets darker and darker throughout the book. The hopelessness that Jack feels but also his need to survive for his brother is really beautifully written and comes across powerfully on the page. There are moments that got my heart pounding for him, that kept the pages turning in hopes that he could turn the corner and everything would work itself out. That he would succeed and be ok and that hope being fed to you the reader is a very powerful thing for the book to do.
Despite all of this, looking back it also feels a little one dimensional. In terms of atmosphere the descriptions of the cold and snow are stunning and they bring the idea of the bone deep pervasive cold but that’s all we get in terms of setting and atmosphere, we have no real scope for the world outside of the snow. Its very much like a play where the scene is set when it is needed but other than that these places just cease to exist. The same goes for the characters, other than his love for his brother, the hint at romance and his bravery in protecting his brother there isn’t much more to Jack. We don’t get who he is outside the confines of this tale and his brother. The same goes for Ava, we get even less about her other than she is brave and the instalove hint of romance. Even the plot doesn’t get a full back story. While I understand we are getting this told from the perspective of the teenagers that get pulled into the situation against there will it is also kind of frustrating as they appear to know enough to move the story along at the convenient parts but not enough to give anything context. There are a lot of loose ends just hanging in the air that don’t have answers. The ending is bitter sweet but it also feels a little too sweet.
So I am on the fence. I enjoyed reading it, I will definately read more from Cory Anderson but overall I am not convinced 100% that I love this book in particular.