Wow this book is indeed beautiful and about messes and my entire opinion is: yes.
Actually haha to you if you thought my opinion was as simple as one line. Of course not. I’m physically unable to stop myself from writing mammoth reviews (IN LISTS, OBVIOUSLY) because I have much to say.
I had so so many feelings about this book. SO MANY. It did have a rather unsatisfying ending that made me gnash my teeth, but otherwise it’s a story about anxiety and depression and it is excellently written. It also won the Text Publishing Prize of 2016 and I CAN SEE WHY.
Also can I add I’m totally onboard with the title?! Because it’s basically my entire instagram aesthetic.
- THE REPRESENTATION OF ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION IS SO SO WELL DONE. It’s dual narrated by Gideon and Ava, and they’re both really struggling. Gideon with severe anxiety/depression/self harm in the past, and Ava has depression after her best friend died. I related a lot to Gideon honestly. He is a soft awkward cinnamon child and you can’t help but adore him. I just really felt like this book UNDERSTOOD what life is like with depression / anxiety. It’s so refreshing not to have it (a) romanticised, (b) cured by falling in love, or (c) belittled. I just…I just…thank you.
- IT HAS A VERY HEALTHY OUTLOOK ON GETTING HELP. Therapists are not evil!! Medication can help!! Talk to your parents!! Romance will not save you!! Like holy kelp where was this book when I was 17?!?? Also it underlines really really heavily that having mental health issues does NOT equal that you are a broken object. I can’t stress how important that is. There seems to be this whole push to say “mental illness equals brokenness you need to fix it” and I, personally, don’t always believe you are. You need help, support, and management to live your life the best you can. But you’re not a broken thing okay???? AND THIS IS THE TITLE OF THE BOOK, MY FIENDS. We can be messes but we are still beautiful.
“Do you know what the Japanese say about broken things?” Robbie looks at me. “Kintsukuroi they call it. They take broken pieces of porcelain and they repair cracks with gold. Making it as it was, but new again. They believe that the cracks can make something more beautiful, more valuable.”
“Is that for real?”
“Have I ever lied to you?”
“They believe that the cracks shouldn’t be hidden, that they’re part of their history, and should be shown. If you’re going to show the cracks, why not show them beautifully.”
- DO YOU SEE THAT QUOTE????? My heart is so full of love for this book, this message, this wholesome goodness.
- THE CHARACTERS ARE FANTASTIC LITTLE POCKETS. I maybe loved Gideon more because he was a soft squish and quite self-depreciatingly funny. He made fun of himself, but the book didn’t make fun of his mental health issues. IMPORTANT DISTINCTION THERE. He’s super anxious but working hard to rebuild himself after a really rough 4 years. Gideon and Ava end up working at a kebab shop and they write letters because Gideon is offline. Ava was really spiky and hurting, and I loved how complex she was! She and Gideon became FRIENDS FIRST. #Nice. And then feelings. #SHIPPINGIT
- OH LOOK. NICE PARENTS. Who care! Wow what is this. Ava has a single father who’s super lovely and Gideon has two mums who are 100% there for him and fantastic.
- THE WRITING IS SUPER ENGAGING AND I DIDN’T WANT TO PUT IT DOWN. I loved their voices! Ava is: “I take no shenanigans and will call out the rot here.” And Gideon is all: “I am trying to live the best life I can WOW A GIRL LOOKED AT ME AND I DIDN’T DIE WOW.” He’s so adorkable and I just ajfkdlsafd.
- WE GOTCHA FEELS. All the sad feels, the happy feels, the wow-Cait’s-stone-cold-heart-is-actually-beating-right-now feels.
- THERE ARE LISTS!! Gideon functions in lists and I think that’s adorable and relatable. I did love their letters too! Although they petered out as the book went on? But it’s super cute writing to people, especially if you have anxiety because it can literally be the difference between making a friend and not — writing can make getting your true self and thoughts down so much easier. BLESS THIS BOOK FOR KNOWING WHAT ANXIETY IS LIKE.
I don’t think any of us are normal. We’ve all got shit going on, but we’re all trying to convince each other that we’re normal. I think it’s fucked. I think it would be so much better if we were all just more honest and said when things were bad, or that we weren’t okay or we were sick or we were happy or whatever.
- I’M A LITTLE TIRED OF THE “MY BEST FRIEND JUST DIED” TROPE. Mostly because it’s like in 80% of YA contemporaries these days? I personally struggle to connect to a character who’s grieving over someone I never met on page. So it makes it like “telling vs showing” because I’m just told about this character was great blah blah etc. I’m also an insensitive turnip so sorry about that.
- THAT ENDING THOUGH…NO. It felt predictable, except Gideon acted WAY out of character. And then the book just left me feeling unsatisfied. Maybe my expectations were just misplaced? But that ending totally knocked it down a full star.
This is definitely a beautiful (har har TITLE PUN) book with such important words to say about mental health, love, and brokenness.
It was bittersweet and funny and absolutely ADORABLE AND CUTE at times. The slow-burn romance was my favourite. Gideon made me laugh/cry simultaneously which is a feat so well done, sir. And I am just so so pleased and heartened that this book exists, even if the ending makes me sort of want to rub lemon leaves in my eyes and growl.
I’m so glad I read this!
THANK YOU TO TEXT PUBLISHING FOR THE REVIEW COPY. Beautiful Mess by Claire Christian was published August 2017!
Since Ava lost Kelly, things haven’t been going so well. Even before she gets thrown out of school for shouting at the principal, there’s the simmering rage and all the weird destructive choices. The only thing going right for Ava is her job at Magic Kebab.
Which is where she meets Gideon. Skinny, shy, anxious Gideon. A mad poet and collector of vinyl records with an aversion to social media. He lives in his head. She lives in her grief. The only people who can help them move on with their lives are each other.