Title: Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined
Author: Danielle Younge-Ullman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Date published: February 21st 2017
Page Count: 368
Ingrid traveled all over Europe with her opera star mother, Margot-Sophia. Life was beautiful and bright, and every day soared with music.
Ingrid is on a summertime wilderness survival trek for at-risk teens: addicts, runaways, and her. She’s fighting to survive crushing humiliations, physical challenges that push her to her limits, and mind games that threaten to break her.
When the curtain fell on Margot-Sophia’s singing career, they buried the past and settled into a small, painfully normal life. But Ingrid longed to let the music soar again. She wanted it so much that, for a while, nothing else mattered.
Ingrid is never going to make it through this summer if she can’t figure out why she’s here . . . and why the music really stopped.
TW: Suicide, Depression and Sexual Assault
Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined is a beautiful gem, that I am so blessed to have picked up. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when entering books, but I wasn’t expecting myself to cry so much. This review doesn’t do this book justice. Lol, don’t even bother reading this review, just go get the book and READ IT.
It’s absolutely adorably cringe-worthy at times and irresistibly beautiful during the rest. I haven’t read such an authentic coming-of-age story in a while.
The story is narrated by Ingrid, who struck a deal with her mother, Margot-Sophia: if Ingrid spends the summer at a wilderness retreat, her mother will let her spend her senior year in London at a prestigious music academy to continue to learn to sing. But the wilderness retreat takes a twist when Ingrid realizes that her fellow campers include an ex-convict, a runaway, and a pervert.
The novel is separated into two story lines, one of Ingrid’s past and another of her in the present trying to survive Peak Wilderness, a wilderness camp. It alternates between present and past, which worked perfectly with the novel; as the novel progresses, Ingrid reveals more about her past, which allows us to know more about her in the present.
I think the biggest reason why I loved this book so much was because of how layered this story is.
Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined hits so many themes and tackles them on in such a unique way. What I love is how it doesn’t glamorize mental illness; Ullman tries to keep it as real as possible. Ingrid goes on a wilderness trek with others who are also dealing with issues of their own. Over the course of the trip, they open up to the group about their struggles. Some overcome their problems; other’s don’t.
Something unique about this book in comparison with other typical YA novels about mental illness, is that this one focuses on living with a close family member dealing with depression. In this case, Ingrid grew up with her mother who has always suffered from depression. And over the course of the novel, you see how much it has taken a toll on Ingrid.
The relationship between Ingrid and her mother was so real. Painful, but real. I found myself crying, sometimes out of frustration over how Margot-Sophia placed her own burdens over Ingrid, or sad over how Ingrid felt like she didn’t deserve happiness because her mother was suffering. I’ve been fortunate to be so close to my mother, but for some reason, there were moments between Ingrid and Margot Sophia that struck a chord with me. I loved the novel’s focus on family, and I think it did a perfect job on it.
I’m telling you this story grows on you. Ingrid grows on you, just as the rest of the story does. Snippets of Ingrid’s past build with every other chapter, and you build her up to be whole. As I got deeper into the book, the more I wanted to stay and listen to Ingrid. Her insights and her struggles; everything. I laughed with her over her awkward encounters with Isaac, cried with her over her fights with her mother, and smiled with her when she finally found her footing at the camp.
The ending was beautiful. I was holding back tears as I listened to the last few chapters. (There’s more of an incentive especially when you’re on the bus with people looking at you weirdly as you wipe away tears) It’s beautiful how Ingrid finally learns to be happy, and to fly her wings.
But as much as Ingrid would she she hasn’t truly transformed, I felt like I learned so much through her growth. Ingrid learned to spread her wings, to let go of the burdens of her mother and to follow her own happiness. Even while listening to the audiobook, you can feel how much her tone has lightened and is no longer burdened with bitterness and restraint.
- My demon is you. My best and worst is about you: how I need you and fear for you, how I fear for myself if I lose you, how I have let myself be defined by you.
This book is so underrated, and I’m so happy I found this gem.
I’m also biased because this book takes place in Toronto. ❤ ❤