"It wasn't always bad. Especially in the beginning. I remember
long walks on the beach, going off-roading in his truck down narrow
forest trails, the night Grandma died and he sat on the couch and held
me while he cried. Even now, all I can think about is what I could
have done differently. If I wasn't late all the time. If I wasn't
always messing up, or doing something to make him mad. If I had been
perfect like Mom and Hannah, maybe things would have stayed good
between me and Trip."
When we think of domestic violence, we tend to envision an
enraged guy taking out an estranged wife or girlfriend and maybe her/
their children. Jennifer Shaw Wolf's Breaking Beautiful is an
eloquent and timely reminder that cruelty and manipulation in
relationships can start quite a bit earlier.
As the story begins, Allie, Wolf's protagonist, has lost Trip,
her boyfriend. She had fallen out of his Chevy pickup right before it
went over a cliff. Now she stays in bed, unable to face the prospect
of going back to school without him. Her parents think she's
paralyzed with grief. They tell her she can't stop living because of
Not all was peachy in their relationship at the time of the
crash. Gradually hints of trouble in paradise pile up: injuries that
were followed up with expensive presents, his control over every
aspect of her life, and a deliberate isolating that has Allie
returning to a small town school where she will be the top entree on
the gossip menu desperately alone. Actually Allie herself may be in
peril. Not everyone was fooled by the facade of relationship
perfection Trip worked to hard to create. There was some evidence
that the accident was not all that accidental. Trip's best friends
have seen the abuse hidden from the rest of the town. They may feel
she should pay for what they believe to be her crime.
Trip's father, a very rich and influential businessman, a man
who is accustomed to getting his way, does not believe that his son's
death was an accident. He's pressured the police chief into bringing
in a detective to investigate. Of course he's going to insist on
talking to Allie, finding out exactly what she knows.
Breaking Beautiful is a very timely book that combines a real
cliff hanger of a suspense story with a realistic portrayal of the
roller coaster nature of a relationship in which a girl's significant
other is also her tormenter.
"At first I thought it was cool: I was the center of his world,
and he was the center of mine, and I was flattered by his jealousy.
But being the center of Trip's world was exhausting. I never knew
what kind of mood he would be in or what would set him off. Things
would be great for weeks and then I'd do something wrong and he's lose
it. I could never predict what it would be."
The story is fictional. In real life, however, too many
relationships are built around this walking on eggshells dynamic.
Breaking Beautiful is perfect for teens who find much of YA
literature to be babyish but aren't quite ready for an all adult
diet. It's also a must read for high school teachers and guidance
counselors and residential life college staff.
On a personal note, I am very impressed with the work student leaders
are doing at the University of Maine to raise awareness of
relationship violence and other related issues.
A great big shout out goes out to those bright and dedicated students
and their counterparts in other colleges and universities.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod