Title: My Beautiful Failure
Author: Janet Ruth Young
Release Date: Available
I want to start out by saying that when I picked up this book, I was expecting a typical, romantic, young adult novel geared toward the female teenage reader. Everything about the cover suggests chick-flick book, from the title, My Beautiful Failure, to the rather clichéd photo of a girl, her face half hidden with her arms, to the fact that the novel was written by a woman. My first impressions about this book couldn’t have been more wrong. I know everyone has heard, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but sometimes, when you’re quickly browsing for a good read, your eyes can’t help but skim over books that remind you of those you’ve already tried, when you’re not particularly in the mood to read something similar.
In my opinion, the cover is the worst aspect of this book. I feel as if it is going to turn away many potential readers, for various reasons, and I just want to put a sticky note on the front that says, “Give me a chance!” This book is a beautiful, powerful story about Billy Morrison, a sophomore in high school, whose father’s depression has engendered his goal of becoming a psychiatrist. When his father, who is rediscovering his passion for art, recommends Billy start his own project, Billy begins to volunteer at Listeners, a suicide hotline. One day, he answers the phone and begins talking to Jenney, a caller who, although promises she is not currently suicidal, is dealing with a lot in her life. The two have an instant connection, and due to Listeners’ anonymity policy regarding personal details, Billy and Jenney are able to get to know each other with a deeper bond than those created by unimportant details of typical relationships.
As Billy and Jenney grow closer, they tell each other more and more. Billy feels grateful that he is able to help Jenney deal with the problems in her life, while she in turns gives him advice about his father’s overly ambitious artistic goals, which Billy feels are not good for his dad’s condition. The book is told from Billy’s point of view, in over one hundred chapters, most four pages or fewer, which is a unique method of storytelling. A few chapters, whose titles begin “Last Winter,” are flashbacks to the previous winter, when Billy’s dad was dealing with the most serious phase of his depression.
This book is written simply, without too much flowery language or overused imagery. The author does a wonderful job of creating Billy’s character, and writing in what is undoubtedly his voice, which makes the journey into Billy’s world incredibly real. Janet Ruth Young has written a poignant story that I think male and female readers of all ages will appreciate. It is both humorous and heart wrenching, sweet and horrifying, and a book that truly stays with you long after you finish the last page. I certainly recommend every young adult reader to ignore any initial judgments and at least give this book a try; it is easy to read, but deals with important issues in a very personal way. Readers will connect and sympathize with Billy, and I don’t think this book will disappoint.
Review by Katie
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