In this lyrical, heartwrenching story about a forbidden first love, a teen seeks the courage to care for another girl despite her small town’s bigotry and her father’s violent threats.
Growing up in conservative small-town New Mexico, fifteen-year-old Mara was never given the choice to be different. Her parents—an abusive, close-minded father and a detached alcoholic mother—raised Mara to be like all the other girls in Barnaby: God-fearing, churchgoing, and straight. Mara wants nothing to do with any of it. She feels most at home with her best friend and older brother, Iggy, but Iggy hasn’t been the same since their father beat him and put him in the hospital with a concussion.
As Mara’s mother feeds her denial with bourbon and Iggy struggles with his own demons, Mara finds an escape with her classmate Xylia. A San Francisco transplant, Xylia is everything Mara dreams of being: free-spirited, open, wild. The closer Mara and Xylia become, the more Mara feels for her—even though their growing relationship is very much forbidden in Barnaby. Just as Mara begins to live a life she’s only imagined, the girls’ secret is threatened with exposure and Mara’s world is thrown into chaos.
Mara knows she can’t live without Xylia, but can she live with an entire town who believes she is an abomination worse than the gravest sin?
BEAUTY OF THE BROKEN by Tawni Waters. I don’t even know how to continue. I’ve been trying to write this review for a week and have been unable to find the words to convey how reading this book made me feel. I read it in less than a day, unable to put it down, and it left me feeling empty and full all in one.
The book is raw. There is no watering-down of some truly horrific events and there were moments when I felt truly heartbroken for Mara and Iggy, as well as their mother at times. Yet, even in the presence of the pain, there is a light in this book that is truly beautiful. The light shines brightest when Mara is in her happy moments – whether it be rare pleasant moments with her family or the time she spends with Xylia. Their growing relationship made the pages glow with happiness.
Tawni Waters is a wonderful writer who can evoke emotions from the very core of the reader. She doesn’t shy away from darkness, doesn’t necessarily give happy endings, and creates flawed characters. Anytime you love or hate a person in a book, the author is doing her job right. Several weeks after finishing THE BEAUTY OF THE BROKEN, I’m still thinking about it. I’m sure it will be on my mind for a long while to come.
*Thanks to Michelle at Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me a copy of this book to read in exchange for my honest review*