Book: The Beauty That Remains
Author: Ashley Woodfolk
Genre: realistic fiction / YA
What it’s about: Autumn, Shay, and Logan are connected through music—and grief. Autumn, who lost her best friend just weeks ago, is struggling to find herself without Tavia here to guide her. Shay’s twin sister Sasha died after years of fighting Leukemia, but the debilitating panic attacks she’s trying to hide from her family and friends are threatening to undo her. Logan is drinking and lashing out, unable to cope or heal after the suicide of his ex-boyfriend Bram. He hasn’t been able to write a song since. They all used to be connected through Unraveling Lovely, the epic band put together by Logan, managed by Shay, and always cheered on by Autumn. With so many griefs and secrets separating them now, will music be enough to bring them back to themselves and maybe even back together?
My thoughts: The Beauty That Remains is such a beautiful and heartbreaking exploration of grief and healing. Woodfolk’s writing is lovely and earnest. Autumn, Shay, and Logan’s experiences and griefs all feel entirely distinct, and it’s particularly interesting to see characters in three different places with their grief and responses to it. Autumn, whose loss is most recent, struggles to release her emotions at all. Shay’s grief and sorrow has manifested in a panic disorder and anxiety that she’s trying to hide from her loved ones so they don’t worry. Logan, who doesn’t know how to process his grief over someone he had barely talked to in the months leading up to his death, falls into bad coping mechanisms that push everyone away. All of their issues and feelings are explored with such care and empathy, and I especially appreciated that there is never a magic cure for anyone. Autumn’s feelings for her best friend’s brother Dante don’t magically make her sorrow and guilt go away, and although the support of Shay’s friends is very important it doesn’t cure her panic attacks. At the same time, therapy and support groups are depicted in a positive light, not discounted or dismissed.
It’s a sad book of course—the whole premise is about these three young people dealing with unexpected death and grief—but it never feels over the top or unnecessary. The Beauty That Remains feels like a very honest portrait of what it’s like to lose someone you love and the difficult journey of trying to keep going after that kind of loss. Ultimately, though, the book is very much about hope: the hope of things getting better, the hope of healing, the hope of everything good that’s left even after you lose someone you love. The title says it all, really; this book is about discovering “the beauty that remains” even after devastating loss, and finding hope that in time—and with help—you can begin to find it again.
This is just a lovely example of what a great YA book can be–well written, thoughtfully developed characters, an empathetic exploration of important topics. I would definitely recommend it to fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Adam Silvera’s History is All You Left Me, and Nina Lacour’s We Are Okay.
The Beauty That Remains comes out in March 2018. You can preorder it here.
TL;DR: A heartfelt and honest exploration of grief and healing in a beautiful YA book.
*I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*