Title: Something Beautiful
Author: Amanda Gernentz Hanson
Publication Date: June 27th 2017
Publisher: Pen Name Publishing
Rating: ★/ 1 Star
Cordelia and Declan have been best friends since they were three years old. By the time they hit middle school, Cordelia—Cord, to Declan—is already feeling the blackness in her life as depression takes hold. Their mutual attraction to each other leads to a serious high school relationship, one with their foundation of friendship at the forefront. Cordelia seems to have her mental health under control. All appears to be well.
However, when Declan starts to accept his own fluid sexuality, it sets something in motion in their lives that is both beautiful and tragic as they learn to love each other for who they are.
I received an electronic advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
Trigger Warning: Suicide attempt very vividly told, multiple character deaths.
<This review is not a positive one.>
Something Beautiful has two points of views, and three settings. It starts off from Cordelia’s point of view shifting between Now and Then. Now, she’s a published author who is an LGBT+ ally. Then, she was just a nine year old with a best friend named Declan.
It’s really difficult for me to sum up my experience with this book kindly. I honestly could not get into the characters, they were very 2d for me, and they did not stand out at all. I realize the book is set in early 2000 but it felt so impossible that the book was spanning ten years. I did not find one likable thing about their friendship. It was codependency 101.
Let’s talk first about Cord. Cord as a child is basically a caricature of what every nine year old is like: rushes into accidents just because she wants to have fun, and super attached to her best friend. I don’t per se hate Cord but the way she was portrayed got on my nerves. Early on in her life, at the age of 11, Cord gets depression because she’s separated from Declan. Now here is where it gets ugly. Expect vivid scenes of cutting and a suicide attempt later on. The second Dec meets up again with Cord, and he finds out about her depression, their relationship takes on this weird turn where Cord can’t survive without Dec. It especially irks me that their relationship turns romantic. Having a boyfriend cannot cure depression and sure there was mention of Cord getting healthier and stuff but not mentally. Fast forward to three years later, Cord still considers herself “weird” because she wears all black and doesn’t talk to people. Come on, I know it’s the early 2000 but it makes her sound oppressed… what the heck?
It’s then that it gets really ugly. So, Declan comes out to Cord as gay. Okay, cool. Except Cord has been so dependent on him for three years that the thought of not being his girlfriend makes her start screaming and withdrawing into herself since you know, she doesn’t know how to be ANYTHING ELSE. After two weeks of not talking to him, Cord attempts suicide. Please be cautious if you’re gonna read this book. Reading the scene hurt me very much.
What goes on after this attempt just cements the unhealthy relationship between these two friends. Sure there is a hint that they start growing more into friends than boyfriend/girlfriend but I didn’t really see enough of that to believe it or even like them. Then we’re introduced to even more drama.
Overall, I did not like Cord’s portrayal with depression. There’s also a bit where she sees a ton of therapists and gets on medication and voila, she’s suddenly cured. Except like… Declan can’t trust anyone else to take care of her and be with her at all times that he has to talk to HER boyfriend about her mental health. I did not like that one bit. That part of the story felt like Cord had ZERO agency of her own. She was stuck in this space of being afraid of ever being without Declan that I never found it in me to like the guy.
Another facet of this plot that I did not like is how sexual fluidity was addressed. Mind you that there seemed like there is only 2 sexualities: Gay and Straight. No mention of any other kind. Like, for one second I wanted to scream at them: BISEXUALITY, it exists!
I’m not trying to invalidate anyone who went through what Declan did, of confusion and fear of not being enough because he felt attracted to men as well as women. I mean, I am bisexual, I know the anxiety of it growing up! But the way it was handled got on my nerves so much. I just wish there was more ways in which Declan could explore his sexuality without him feeling guilty. I know sex is a big part of life for SOME people, but I wish he had another kind of guidance. Did he not think of seeing a therapist on his own? These people were middle-class, they could afford that shit.
Anyway, yeah I didn’t like how the book tried to address fluidity but instead made me so uncomfortable. It tried so hard but I didn’t feel in anyway that Declan’s part of the story was being told. It focused on the way people reacted to him coming out as gay rather than Declan’s own feelings. Sexual fluidity is kind of a big deal, while it’s 100% valid, it’s also damaging to one’s self-esteem, or so I’ve experience. The book centered on Cord so much in Declan’s own experience and I didn’t like it. It felt like “here’s a book with a gay character… except it’ll be told entirely from the Straight Woman’s point of view.”
PLUS: the ending felt very cheap and like it was trying so hard to get me to like the characters. Guess what? I may have cried, but it’s only because I’ve got Depression, Susan! I still don’t like this book.
The one star rating might seem harsh, but come on, this book was so harmful to me and my opinion is what I’m displaying on this blog.