Beauty of the Broken

368p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481407090; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481407106.
Gr 9 Up—Mara Stonebrook knows she does not belong; she is "different." Her small town is conservative and strictly religious. She attends a parochial school even though her parents are far from wealthy. Her mother drinks to forget that she is married to an abusive bully who punishes her and Mara's older brother Iggy, because he is not his biological son. Mara's mother loves Iggy the best because he is the son of the man she really loved. Mara has managed to escape her father's abuse for 15 years, but she knows that if anyone finds out her deepest secret, that she is a lesbian, she will be punished as an abomination in the eyes of their conservative church. If her father finds out, she will be lucky to live. Keeping her secret is easy until Xylia comes to town. A free-spirited transplant from San Francisco, Xylia encourages Mara's artistic talent and returns her feelings. The reverend's son takes a picture of them the two girls kissing, and they fear that they will be outed. After both of their houses are tagged with graffiti, Xylia's mother sends her back to her father in San Francisco, and Mara is alone. Shortly after school starts, Mara is raped by the reverend's son and is told that if she reveals that he is the perpetrator, he will release the photograph of her and Xylia. For months, Mara lives in a fog, but when her friend Henry, a Native American, is mistakenly arrested for the rape, she knows she has to tell the truth, whatever the circumstances. The aftermath is severe but frees Mara. Emotionally wrenching, this novel will resonate with students struggling with their own sexual orientation.—Suanne B. Roush, formerly at Osceola High School, Seminole, FL
Horrific domestic abuse and homophobic violence bookend fifteen-year-old Mara's coming-of-age in this debut novel set in small-town New Mexico. Mara's romance with West Coast transplant Xylia fails to counterbalance the unremitting bleakness of the book, which grapples with racism, sexual assault, alcoholism, and brain damage. Ambitious themes are derailed by broadly drawn characters, forced plotting, and an unconvincing central relationship.

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