Beautiful

Book review by
Debra Bogart, Common Sense Media
Beautiful Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Good-girl-goes-bad tale packed with adult content.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 20 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value
Positive Messages

These 13-year-olds drink and use drugs, and have unsafe sex with no consequences. Adults also abuse alcohol with no disclosed effects. Whether Cassie changes her behavior is unclear; it is implied that she does. No other characters do.

Positive Role Models & Representations

This is a story about young teens abusing drugs and alcohol with no interference or consequences. One 13-year-old boy drinks alcohol in the school cafeteria. The parents are absent or alcoholic and neglectful, or worse.

Violence

Cassie is physically threatened and pushed around by her new best friend, Alex. Alex has bruises on her legs from rough sex with her boyfriend. Alex's half-sister has been raped by her father. Alex physically abuses her half-sister. Alex's father hung himself. Alex's mother is alcoholic and physically and emotionally abusive. Cassie is brutally beaten up by a girl while her mother sits inside her car and just watches.

Sex

Thirteen-year-old Cassie repeatedly has unprotected sex with her boyfriend. Her best friend Alex also has unsafe sex and oral sex with boys. Cassie and another girl kiss and have sexual and romantic feelings for each other.

Language

Constant swearing includes "f--k," "s--t," "dick," "bitch," "asshole."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Constant drug usage: acid, pot, ketamine; kids drinking, smoking cigarettes. Cassie's mother is aloholic; Alex's mother is alcoholic.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a stark and gritty story of a middle class 13-year-old girl who moves to a new school and chooses to stop being a good girl; to lose her virginity as quickly as possible and embrace drugs and alcohol. Her father is emotionally abusive and her mother is alcoholic and neglectful. She repeatedly has consequence- and protection-free sex with her boyfriend. She abuses drugs (acid, pot, and more) and alcohol without consequences. Her friend (with a horribly dysfunctional family) beats her up. A romantic relationship with another girl develops -- the most tender part of the book. There is one tragic death, but it's not enough to really turn this into a cautionary tale -- just a bleak one filled with every kind of very mature content.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byOryx August 14, 2011

EVERYTHING is Educational.

The first review of this book may be true, but the contents of the book hold much truth as well. Maybe those evangelical over-protective parents don't want... Continue reading
Parent of a 15 and 17-year-old Written bysamantha1234 October 17, 2010
I think it has good messages because although the girl has to go through a lot of tough situations, she ultimitley decides to do what she thinks is right and kn... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bycaroline223344 April 24, 2019
This book is very explicit but written well. It has super mature scenes but it is a book that I think teenage boys and girls should read. It has educational val... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bymysticology May 19, 2015

Good Book For Mature Kids&Teens

I believe that Beautiful is a very moving and honest book. It talks about problems that people have and that the whole world isn't amazing for everybody. I... Continue reading

What's the story?

Cassie is 13 years old, and on her first day at a new school she wants to leave her boring old life behind. New friends quickly introduce her to drugs and alcohol, and she tries acid and loses her virginity in just a few days. At first she is shocked by her new best friend's life: her mother is a drunk and abusive, her father hung himself. A half-sister, Sarah, moves in with Alex's family because her father raped her. Cassie herself has no problem hiding her drug use and drinking from her alcoholic mother and often absent father. Cassie is drawn to a girl named Sarah in a romantic and tender way; Sarah is passive, vulnerable, and scarred. Sarah may be Cassie's way out of her self-destructive cycle, but not in the way she expects.

Is it any good?

This book has been compared to Go Ask Alice, one of the first novels to graphically describe a teen's life on drugs, but BEAUTIFUL is more shocking. It's about young teens abusing all kinds of drugs under the nose of neglectful parents who range from poor to affluent, with no apparent lessons learned. The main character is smart, pretty, and middle class. It's never clear what her motivations are for choosing a dangerous lifestyle other than a desire to be "beautiful." It's hard to say what teens are supposed to take away from this book; without consequences for such self-destructive behavior this is simply a voyeuristic look into the lives of some of the other characters who do suffer great abuse. Consequently Cassie's story remains blurred.

But writer Amy Reed has style, even when her prose sounds too sophisticated and articulate for a young teen, particularly one who is disturbed. The authentic narrative voice almost never slips, and may make a story about a 13-year-old still appeal to older teens ready for a very edgy read.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the desire many teens have to recreate themselves. How difficult is that for middle school kids? Why did Cassie want to change her life?

  • What are some normal consequences of drug and alcohol abuse? Why are drugs illegal?

  • Cassie puts up with intimidation and some roughness from her friend Alex. How can kids protect themselves from people like Alex? Did you think Alex was really her friend? What about Sarah?

  • Cassie has sex with her boyfriend but she doesn't seem to really care for him. Why was she sleeping with him? What was she risking?

  • What do you think happens after Cassie starts a new school and leaves Alex behind?

Book details

For kids who love mature themes

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