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Beautiful Children

2.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,695 Ratings  ·  410 Reviews
One Saturday night in Las Vegas, twelve-year-old Newell Ewing goes out with a friend and doesn't come home. In the aftermath of his disappearance, his mother, Lorraine, makes daily pilgrimages to her son's room and tortures herself with memories. Equally distraught, the boy's father, Lincoln, finds himself wanting to comfort his wife even as he yearns for solace, a loving ...more
Hardcover, 407 pages
Published January 22nd 2008 by Random House (first published January 1st 2008)
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Goddess of Light by P.C. CastThe Nightlife by Travis LuedkeVegas Baby by Winter RenshawShine Not Burn by Elle CaseyLeaving Las Vegas by John  O'Brien
Las Vegas Books
16th out of 104 books — 109 voters
The Delivery Man by Joe McGinniss Jr.Beautiful Children by Charles BockThe Art Broker by Brian HammFear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. ThompsonLiterary Las Vegas by Mike Tronnes
The Guardian's 10 Best Books Set in Las Vegas
2nd out of 11 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Feb 18, 2008 Melissa rated it it was ok
To get through a book where the "punk" characters say things like "cool beans" and "he's an Urkel" and "oh snap!"; where the strippers have hearts of gold and the former strippers grow up to be the best mothers; where the author unironically writes sentences like "the world was a pair of successfully removed breast implants"; and to still be engaged and even occasionally impressed by that book (when not prompted to delve into a long, exasperated rant about its many cliches) is a pretty big feat. ...more
Feb 27, 2008 John rated it did not like it
It was by sheer force of will that I was able to finish this book. It's sad too because, like many here, I had high hopes for this much hyped debut. I don't believe that Bock's a lost cause by any means, but he's definitely got some refining to do before Random House or any other publisher so much as thinks about advancing him any more money. I primarily take issue with the unwieldy narrative, the disastrously underdeveloped characters, and Newell Ewing, the twelve year-old whose disappearance t ...more
May 06, 2013 Oriana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2010
This wasn't bad or anything, but it was fairly unsatisfying, overall. It's a loosely connected story of a handful of characters with pretty messy lives, all fucking up and being fucked up in Las Vegas. It's definitely not a Swingers type of Las Vegas; it's the grittier, grimier, non-touristy side, which I really liked reading about. And it's a good cross-section of people too: old and young, rich and homeless, stripper and real-estate agent, crust punks and comic geeks. But the plot? Eh. It's no ...more
Mar 09, 2008 LaDonna rated it did not like it
I don't know what, exactly, I expected when I started this book, but it certainly wasn't a slow-moving, leaden story.

None of the characters in this book are likeable, and they are all so stiff, it's hard to sympathize with them at all. It doesn't help that the cast is so huge... new characters are being introduced almost up until the very end. The author seems to treat his protagonists flippantly, and he doesn't even bother to give one of the characters a name, calling her simply "The girl with
Aug 06, 2008 Kerfe rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I never thought I would be listing a book I would rate a "2" because usually I just don't finish a book I'd put in that category. And though I skimmed large chunks of this one, finding some parts almost unreadable and without any clear value to the story(s), I did finish. But I would not recommend anyone else do the same, despite all its glowing reviews.

My first reaction at the start of the book was: way too many writing classes and workshops, could use an editor with some sharp scissors. It got
Feb 19, 2008 Matt rated it did not like it
I feel like a sucker for having bought this. It's not very good. For Christ's sake, there are puns! I can't remember the exact phrasing, but one part read something like:

"I was being figurative, she said. To which Ponyboy responded with his middle figurative."

And his use of parlance – and particularly the use of the word "like" – is terrible and often embarrassing. The prose is all playful and buoyant and alliterative, and seems to undermine the subject matter. It's like a crystal chandelier in
Mar 18, 2008 Al rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book, which was favorably reviewed on the front page of the NYT Sunday Book Review. I didn't.
Nearly every character is grotesque and pathetic; it's hard to believe that human beings could be as clueless as these people are. Maybe one or two, but all of them? It's difficult to get involved in a story where the characters are despicable AND their actions make no sense. It doesn't help that nearly every character is obsessed with sex, and many with pornography. Give m
Apr 06, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: someone not opposed to read something exceedingly dark and depressing.
Maybe this isn't the right time in my life, but I couldn't read this book. One night, I had trouble getting to sleep after reading several chapters. The subject matter is extremely disturbing--especially the depiction of the subculture of runaways living off the Strip. I finally gave up on page 350.
I also had trouble with Bock's writing. At times, the language is beautiful, but other sections read like a grad student experimenting with different devices. I could almost hear the workshop discuss
Apr 04, 2008 George rated it liked it
I first heard about this book in a Times profile of Bock. A big deal was made of how Charles Bock took 11 years to write this novel. This fact stuck with me throughout reading the book, as so much of it seems to have been so crafted and re-crafted to the point of being overwritten. There are references to very recent events, so it feels like he just kept going at it, revising, and refusing to let it go.

There are some truly fantastic parts of this book. Some of the subsections of the book's 7 ch
Apr 09, 2009 claire rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Picked it up at the local bookstore, read it in a day. The prose was decent and a couple of characters had a compelling depth, but it felt like Bock was trying a little too hard to be interesting. Seriously, if I want a methed-out porn-delivery guy, a mouthy preteen with ADD, a stripper with a heart of gold and hollowed-out nipples (to hold the sparklers, natch), and a sweaty comic book author all caught up in parallel narratives, I'll read a Carl Hiaasen novel. In fact, this felt like a Hiaase ...more
Jun 01, 2008 Susanne rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Neill
Feb 26, 2008 Michael Neill rated it it was amazing
I came to Beautiful Children in between reading two Cormac McCarthy novels, Blood Meridian and The Road. And while Bock [full disclosure: I know him] and McCarthy are as different as two writers can be, they have this in common: Their characters inhabit an America that devours its children. In fact, Bock's Vegas occupies a sort of halfway point in the timeline between Blood Meridian's bloody Old West and the post-Apocalyptic ruin of The Road. And there are moments in Beautiful Children that are ...more
Jul 18, 2008 Carsten rated it it was amazing
I am still reading this book, but so far i am quite impressed. i really love the character development and the language. I saw some reviews that didn't like the book, that couldn't find the las vegas in the novel, but while i think there is quite a bit about las vegas in the story the city is not the main character of this story, it is the background, but that background could also have been LA, Orlando, or Phoenix. this is just a little thought along the way ... as i said i am still reading it, ...more
Michael Shilling
Mar 12, 2008 Michael Shilling rated it liked it
Charles Bock can write well, so well that he has no excuse for several one-dimensional characters that no amount of detailed back-story can save from irrelevance, a very stock treatment of strippers and modern-primitive runaways, simplified cause-and-effect character development, and a focal point - this missing kid - who remains a complete cipher. That can't be the point. Is that the point? That said, the book is very fun to read, amazingly so considering that there's almost no plot, and what f ...more
Mar 23, 2009 Jacob rated it liked it
From all the hype and its inclusion on the NYT 100 Notable Books of 2008 list, I had high expectations for this book. Unfortunately, it failed to meet them. The novel contains some great parts and snippets of beautifully written passages which stand out in a narrative that otherwise is weighed down with too many disparate characters and storylines that Boch should have eliminated. The book’s redeeming factor is that there are a few compelling storylines that keep the reader involved enough to wa ...more
Oct 18, 2008 christa rated it liked it
According to a New York Times Magazine feature on Charles Bock, it took the sadist 11 years to write his first novel Beautiful Children. Then, 406ish pages of the hardcover later, Charles Bock gives a shining example of why one should not spend 11 years on one book.

Mainly, this beast is full of words.

The story centers on the disappearance of 12-year-old smart ass rapscallion Newell Ewing. He spends a night out in his hometown of Las Vegas with his creepy older friend Kenny, a social misfit comic
Jan 27, 2008 Becca rated it it was ok
I had big expectations for this one. Must say, that because it's big and unweildy and even ambitious doesn't make it a good novel. This is such a tough book to plod through and it delivers so little in the way of emotional impact or tension. I expected to see Las Vegas come alive and to feel something but it fell flat. I admit I haven't finished it...struggling to but will push through. I hope the ending pays off but I'm not so confident about that. Not sure what the hype is all about with this ...more
Mary McCoy
Feb 25, 2008 Mary McCoy rated it really liked it
By turns harrowing, profane, pornographic, and tragic, Beautiful Children is not for the faint of heart. But, as a book about the darkest corners of Las Vegas, populated by a cast of disaffected and irreparably damaged urban nomads, how could it be anything else?

At the book's center is the disappearance of 12-year-old Newell Ewing, and the dissolution of his parents' marriage as they struggle to come to terms with their loss. The book's narrative jumps around in time, gradually revealing the eve
May 29, 2008 Libby rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008-misses
I started this novel, and put it down about 150 pages later. This was approximately two weeks ago, and I do not feel particularly compelled to return to it. This lack of feeling on my part is especially disappointing to me, given the author's coverage in the New York Times Magazine (who doesn't love an underdog?), as well as the book's cover-review in the Times book section, and the fact that I bought it in hardcover (beautiful jacket, by the way: uncoated stock, great typography, and a judiciou ...more
Mar 10, 2008 Emily rated it liked it
Sigh, well, I read this for a book club and I have to be honest, it was sort of one of those books I had to make myself read. I liked parts of it a lot, and he is a good writer. I hated the kid, Newell. To be honest, I didn't really see why he would run away. That part didn't ring very true to me, but maybe the point is that you never really know and sometimes people run away for trivial reasons? I do feel though that the impact of that issue in the story (the runaways thing) would have been str ...more
This is the hot new book by a Las Vegas author. It's supposed to be the seminal Vegas book of our generation.

I didn't find it particularly Vegas-focused as I found it focused on parents and children. The story is about a group of interconnected people who occupy a range of positions in society. They're connected by all knowing a boy who disappears. There are intense, heartbreaking ruminations on both the previous lives and the aftereffects of the boy's disappearance, as well as some of the exte
Aug 07, 2008 Daniel rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008
Charles Bock does a good job, for the most part, of juggling multiple characters, plotlines and points in time -- I say "for the most part" because the comic-book artist is nearly forgotten in the novel's second half -- but the book falls apart in its voices. Bock attempts third-person narrative adopting the voice and viewpoint of each character, but only Ponyboy's sections are successful in this regard. The other characters lack distinctive voices -- perhaps because their personalities are less ...more
May 30, 2008 Jessica rated it liked it
I liked and admired this book more than I loved it. It has aspirations to be a pretty big investigation and indictment of a culture that chews up dreamers and spits them out, but most of the characters are too thinly drawn to deepen it to that level. Instead, it's a very readable story about connections and loss, exploitation and love, fumbles, mistakes, accidents, viciousness, and hope, told in a non-linear structure that in a way is like reading reassembled fragments of a shattered mirror. In ...more
Sep 15, 2008 Maggie rated it really liked it
"I want them to see me dying. That way, they'll know I'm alive."

Beautiful Children is the kaleidoscopic tale of Las Vegas' dark underbelly, a place where underneath the lights, glitz and glamour lurks a bevy of downtrodden and desperate. Bock centers the bulk of his novel around one particular Saturday night - the night that twelve-year-old Newell Ewing disappeared, leaving behind only a single shoe abandoned in the middle of the desert. Starting with the story of Newell's disappearance, the nov
Feb 06, 2009 Don rated it liked it
I think this book has been seriously overrated (although not by the members of this website!).

The writing is overdone, particularly at the beginning--a first-time novelist showing what he can do. Over time, this settles down, but throughout the novel his writing verges on the excessive. I read this book immediately after reading Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises", and the contrast between Hemingway's spare writing style and Bock's excess is startling.

I also found it difficult to identify with the
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this review, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

This is one of two books I've recently read that I didn't care for enough to finish, but weren't exactly terrible so didn't want to include them in my snarky "Too Awful to Finish" series of essays; it's the high-profile Beautiful Children by Charles Bock, which I actually read electronically because
Mar 01, 2008 Lisa rated it really liked it
Mostly liked it, although it struck me as very young, and not just because of the subject matter. The hardest part for me to get around was his trying to cram too much stuff in there, pushing his fascination with his characters before the reader has a chance to develop their own. When he pulls back, holds onto information and goes for a little less-is-more, it's usually really effective. So I guess my beef would be with the lack of variety where his pacing is concerned -- I think that could push ...more
Feb 17, 2008 Katie rated it it was ok
I would liken the experience of reading this to being on a Tilt-A-Whirl that has gone on the loose: spinning feverishly in one direction, anxious pausing, spinning a bit in the other, and some heading very much off track, into, like, the log flume. I will echo criticism that Bock would have benefited from an editor and perhaps at the end avoided just about plainly stating the intended meaning of it all. Some of the pop / internet culture references were heavy-handed (I am thinking specifically o ...more
Aqui hay de todo, primero son varias historias una desaparición es la central, un niño desaparece.

Entonces, muchas historias, un libro muy denso, no es malo, lo escoji porque me llamo la atención del nombre, la portada (si soy superficial), ademas no es mio, lo lei para el reto #12mesesleyendo y este mes era un libro prestado pero chito*susurro me lo quedare para mi*

Bueno lo recomiendo si alguien quiere leer un triller, insisto es denso, pero por ninguna parte el libro tiene vacios, se nota que
Jan 22, 2009 Ben rated it did not like it
Recommended to Ben by: New York Times
I remember thinking in early 2008 when the NYT graced this book with not one but two reviews and a big fat Sunday Magazine profile of its author, young DFW-ite Charles Bock: MAN! this must be some book. In hindsight: wtf were they thinking? This book is just a little worse than average, I have to say. As much as it pains me, I have to call it just plain old bad. I'm sorry he spent 10 years working on it, I really am, but apart from some competent writing in spots and a few moving parts on domest ...more
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