Sometimes, a book blurb doesn’t do it’s book justice. I read the blurb for Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined several times, yet it didn’t speak to me. Therefore, I didn’t pick it up. Blurbs have the power, dear publishers. It sounded to me like this book was about a camping trip and about a mother who is/was an opera singer. One: I hate camping. Two: I dislike opera. So this didn’t seem like the book for me. Boy, was I wrong…
So what did the blurb say?
Ingrid traveled all over Europe with her opera star mother, Margot-Sophia. Life was beautiful and bright, and every day soared with music.
Ingrid is on a summertime wilderness survival trek for at-risk teens: addicts, runaways, and her. She’s fighting to survive crushing humiliations, physical challenges that push her to her limits, and mind games that threaten to break her.
When the curtain fell on Margot-Sophia’s singing career, they buried the past and settled into a small, painfully normal life. But Ingrid longed to let the music soar again. She wanted it so much that, for a while, nothing else mattered.
Ingrid is never going to make it through this summer if she can’t figure out why she’s here . . . and why the music really stopped.
See why this didn’t speak to me, as someone who doesn’t enjoy camping or opera? It sounded like yet another coming of age novel to me, nothing really special. So why did I end up reading it? I read some raving reviews, and to be honest, it was cheap as an e-book on my Kobo. And I like good bookdeals. Who doesn’t? I was so glad I bought this book.
And is everything beautiful?
Yes. Everything is indeed beautiful. And it’s not ruined at all. It turns out, opera does play a vital part in the book, but it’s all in flashbacks. And there are no difficult opera bits in it, or long and winding lyrics. The opera is almost as important as a character, since it defines who Ingrid’s mother is. So when she loses her voice , this means everything. It’s pretty clear very soon into the book that Ingrid’s mother, Margot-Sophia, suffers from severe depressions because of what she lost. And my Gods, it’s written so well, so carefully and so true. These parts are all in the flashbacks, as the now is Ingrid at the camping trip.
As a camping hater, the camping bits were… fun to read. Maybe it’s because Ingrid hates camping as much as me. But she has to do this trip, as otherwise her mother won’t let her go to a prestigious school in London. The trip is to learn, to cope and to live. And since Ingrid’s dream is going to this school, she does the best she can during this survival trip, together with other teens who each have their own issues.
Then and Now
It took some getting used to the chapters changing between the present, at the wilderness survival, and the past, with ‘normal’ things like school, moving, love and homelife. The red line between both time periods is the relationship between Ingrid and her mother. As the book progressed, I wanted to know more about what happened in the past, and what happens at camp. So I just had to keep reading, since the chapters alternate. Want to know more about the past? Finish the chapter about the future, and the other way around. This way, Everything Beautiful kept me hooked. I wanted to know everything.
I can’t honestly say which part I liked the most. The flashbacks are a big part of the story as you learn more about Ingrid and her life. It also ties everything together beautifully. But the camping part is also great, as all of the teens are very interesting and they each have a backstory. For instance, one of them is a teen mom, one of them was in jail and one of them was in a cult. Each has a solid reason to join the weeks of camping in the wild. The interaction between Ingrid and her fellow campers is great.
Don’t read this in public though
Because you will cry in public if you do.
This is probably the best contemporary Young Adult I read since All the Bright Places. The themes of both books even overlap a bit. So if you want to end 2017 with reading a great book, go for Everything Beautiful is not ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman. Or start 2018 with it, if you’re reading list is full for this year. Either way, read this, even if you hate opera and camping.