What Beauty There Is is Cory Anderson's stunning YA novel about brutality and beauty, and about broken people trying to survive―perfect for fans of Patrick Ness, Laura Ruby, and Meg Rosoff. To understand the truth, you have to start at the beginning. Winter in Idaho. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones. Living in harsh poverty, Jack Dahl is holding his breath. He and his younger brother have nothing―except each other. And now Jack faces a stark 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, a merciless man, has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one. Now Victor Bardem is stalking the same money as Jack. When he picks up on Jack’s trail, Ava must make her own wrenching choice: remain silent or speak, and help the brothers survive. Choices. They come at a price.
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After his mother dies, Jack is determined to keep his brother safe. A task that is impossible without money. It starts with a visit and snowballs from there, with Jack and his brother in danger at every turn. Ava gets pulled in to their lives, and with her help, their slim chances improve marginally. With the whole world seemingly against them, the race is on.
What I loved: The writing is absolutely gripping and poetic in a way that makes the real world seem blurry. This book completely captivated me from start to finish - it was impossible to put down. All the characters came to life off the page, and I appreciated the other perspectives sprinkled throughout, in addition to Ava and Jack. The story is dark and full of danger, and this definitely made my heart pound (and breakdown in tears at a couple scenes).
Despite the darkness and danger, one of the major themes was the beauty and power in caring about the people you let into your heart. While there was not really a romance per se, there was a deep caring between the characters that had its own power and beauty, and I loved watching them interact. As they became beloved to each other, so they do to the reader. This was a book with real, three-dimensional characters that leapt off the page.
I would add warnings for suicide, murder, animal cruelty, abuse, homelessness, and (on a lighter note) a somewhat open ending.
Final verdict: Consuming, captivating, and compelling, WHAT BEAUTY THERE IS is a stunning and dark YA thriller that will leave readers reeling. Highly recommend for fans of SADIE, RULES FOR VANISHING, and TRULY DEVIOUS.