Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ARC Review: Ordinary Beauty by Laura Wiess


How can you make someone love you when they won’t?
And what if that person happens to be your mother?

Sayre Bellavia grew up knowing she was a mistake: unplanned and unwanted. At five months shy of eighteen, she’s become an expert in loneliness, heartache, and neglect. Her whole life she’s been cursed, used, and left behind. Swallowed a thousand tears and ignored a thousand deliberate cruelties. Sayre’s stuck by her mother through hell, tried to help her, be near her, be important to her even as her mother slipped away into a violent haze of addiction, destroying the only chance Sayre ever had for a real family.

Now her mother is lying in a hospital bed, near death, ravaged by her own destructive behavior. And as Sayre fights her way to her mother’s bedside, she is terrified but determined to get the answer to a question no one should ever have to ask: Did my mother ever really love me? And what will Sayre do if the answer is yes?


Publication date: June 14th 2011 by MTV Books

The Elliott Review:

I'm starting to get more into contemporary fiction more lately, and amazing books like Ordinary Beauty are the reason why. I know that sounds weird, but when I make an investment in reading a book that's not magical or paranormal, I want to see stories being told that need to be told, grit and all even if it deals with the unpleasant aspects of our society. Ordinary Beauty is emotionally intense, at times raw, at times extraordinarily bittersweet.

Sayre's life in this book is not pretty, and it is a perfect depiction of the tough lives some kids are forced to live due to parents' bad choices and selfishness. The story takes the form of Sayre trying to reach her dying mother in the hospital on a wintry night, forced into reflection about the past and her own deepest need to feel love or to receive closure from her mother. Witness to a horrible car wreck, on the way to the hospital she is ultimately forced to open up to two complete strangers (and, thus, herself) about the hideousness of what has taken place in her life.

In the past, her mother's relationships and drug addictions and completely self- and others-destructive behavior left Sayre hurting and broken yet, due to some good influences in her life, determined to be more than her mother has been. This is a story of all the hurt and yet of hope because, even in the midst of such chaos, seeds are planted that lead to Sayre's successful attempts at breaking the cycle of her mother's destruction. I love the fact that this book doesn't moralize, despite the many opportunities to do so. Things are what they are, and we never do come to a complete sense of closure or retribution along with Sayre. Life is life, and life contains both pain and happiness, sometimes intermingled with each other.

As a teacher, this reaffirms the fact that sometimes the students I might have in my classroom are equally as broken and neglected as Sayre and reminds me that I need to at least attempt to be a force that might set them on the right path.

Young Adult Notes:

This book contains a little bit of strong language and deals with (or mentions) all the ugly stuff we don't want to think about in society - drug abuse and addiction, promiscuous sex, gruesome deaths, cheating, child abuse, and animal violence. I would say 14 and up would be an appropriate age, though many mature middle schoolers younger than that could handle it and would love it because it is so edgy and heartfelt.

Source: Simon & Schuster Galley Grab

1 comment:

  1. Great review. Sometimes working with young people and wondering about where they come from makes reading these books even harder, doesn't it?