I really enjoyed reading Everything Beautiful and I’m sure that many teenage readers (probably girls) will enjoy it too. It has all the ingredients you need in such a book. It’s heartbreaking and funny, vulgar (with the best example of inappropriate, but not too damaging sex I’ve read in a long time) and a wonderful central character you really care about.
Like many protagonists, Riley has a lot to be unhappy about. Her beloved mother has died, she has moved house against her will and instead of having more time with her father, she now has less. She responds to her sadness and insecurity with some spectacularly bad behaviour and an attachment to a new best friend called Chloe, the kind that drinks, takes drugs and has casual sex, the sort of person adults call a bad influence.
Dad’s religious, irritating girlfriend Norma wants a break – a holiday without Riley. So Riley, the rebellious atheist and outrageous punk/goth dresser, gets sent off to a kind of Christian boot camp a long way from civilisation, where they hope she will learn to find religion and become good and patient. She doesn’t of course, but she does learn a lesson or two, one of which is not to trust boys just because they’re good looking and how to make friends with different kinds of people.
One of these new friends is Dylan. I have to admit that my cliché radar was activated when he appeared on the scene: a newly disabled loner, with what appeared at first sight to be a large chip on his wheelchair using shoulders. But I needn’t have worried, Dylan is a complex, believable character and the two have some sweet times and a wild adventure.
At the end of the story, we don’t know whether Riley will ever see the lovely, sad Dylan again, but we hope she will. She seems unlikely to turn religious and satisfyingly, she remains loyal to her old friend Chloe.