**What Beauty There Is was sent to me for free in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to TheWriteReads & Penguin Random House for having me on the tour.**
Winter. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.
Jack Morton has nothing left. Except for his younger brother, Matty, who he’d do anything for. Even die for. Now with their mother gone, and their funds quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison. He chooses the money.
Ava Bardem lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one. Trust no one. Now Victor Bardem is stalking the same money as Jack. When he picks up Jack’s trail, Ava must make her own wrenching choice: remain silent or help the brothers survive.
Choices. They come at a price.
What Beauty There Is follows the tragic unravelling of Jack and Matty Dahl’s lives after the loss of their mother. With a father in prison and no money left, Jack stops at nothing to protect his younger brother, Matty, from the ugliness of the world around them. Ava Bardem, regardless of the awful and controlling world she’s been born into, still believes that there are beautiful things left in the world around her.
This dark and intense thriller has moments of pureness and light that could have easily been lost in the utterly horrendous story of the boy’s lives. It’s heart and gut-wrenching to read as their lives fall apart. Jack really is so selfless and loving, I thought he was a beautiful character. To have dealt with all that he did, and to still never give up on his brother or life generally showed his strength and determination. I felt he was so desperate to start a better life with his brother and no matter how many times he was knocked down, he got right back up. His sense of love and loyalty was so strong that it was heart-warming. Matty was cute and I felt for him being so young and having to deal with all the horrible things they did. His innocence was essentially stripped away from him, no matter how much Jack tried to shield him from the enormity of their problems. For the entire book, I was rooting for them to have a better life because they deserved it. No child should have to go through what they both went through.
In my opinion, Ava was their guardian angel. Jack and Ava had similar upbringings with their fathers being criminals and pure evil. Ava was always so gentle with Matty, she played his games with him and made sure he was always ok. Her compassion knew no end with Jack and Matty. She had a calming and caring presence with them that she’d never given to anyone else. Her father, Victor, controlled and manipulated her by telling her to trust no one and have no friends. I think a part of her was even scared to make friends because she had no idea what he would do to them. That in itself was incredibly sad because she had so much love to give. She expressed that with Jack and Matty. Even when she refused Jack’s touch, I think that was her fear of being close to someone showing.
This is a very dark read, but it’s so beautifully written. The pacing is perfect. I struggled to put it down because I was completely engrossed in their world and praying that they’d escape it. These are trigger warnings for this book – suicide, violence, gore, murder, childhood abuse/trauma, addiction, and poverty. Some of these things are written in graphic detail and even though it’s YA, I’d argue the younger folks (12 – 14) should steer clear of it. It was very difficult for me to read at my ripe old age of 24 – it’s so devastatingly dark.
In saying all of this, I have to give this 5/5 stars. I couldn’t fault it. I highly recommend reading this book if you’re into thrillers and can deal with it’s darkness. It’s the kind of book that will stay with you long after you finish it.