Everything Beautiful, by Simmone Howell

I believe in Chloe and chocolate.
I believe the best part is always before.
I believe that most girls are shifty and most guys are dumb.
I believe the more you spill, the less you are.
I don’t believe in life after death or diuretics or happy endings.
I don’t believe anything good will come of this.

Riley Rose is not happy. Her dad is dumping her at the Spirit Ranch Holiday camp, while he has a holiday with his new girlfriend. All Riley wants is to escape to spend time with her friend Chloe and party at Ben Sabatini’s house. Instead she finds herself surrounded by do-gooder counsellors, bible quotations and kids who hate her. She’ll never fit in here – and why would she want to?

Soon, though, Riley discovers there is more to Spirit ranch than Christian fellowship. There are secrets among the campers and the counsellors. There is Dylan, the regular camp attendee who has had an accident since the last camp – and is now in a wheelchair – and, at an abandoned house, a million secrets, guarded over by the strange kid, Bird.

Everything Beautiful is a story about the broken and the broken hearted. The main character, Riley, is a troubled teen who has lost her mother. Dylan is struggling to come to terms with his new disability, while Riley’s roommate, Sarita, is battling to find and express herself with her peers and her parents. Howell does not offer a simple solution to the problems faced by the characters, but does offer an insight into their struggles, and hope that they can find a way forward.

With romance and humour, including Riley’s sassy first person narrative, Everything Beautiful is a light read tackling some serious problems in an accessible manner. Good stuff.

Everything Beautiful

Everything Beautiful, by Simmone Howell
Pan, 2008

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