When I read the first book in the University of Branton series, This Love, I was introduced to two characters I was dying to know more about. It just...moreWhen I read the first book in the University of Branton series, This Love, I was introduced to two characters I was dying to know more about. It just so happens that I was not alone! I am thanking the book Gods and Goddesses today because Nazarea thought these two characters deserved their own book as well and thus Beautiful Broken was born…err published.
We first meet Dane and Scout in This Love. With that being said, these two books can definitely be enjoyed separately but for the full effect, I do think you should read that one first. Anyways, moving on…in This Love you get little glimpses of just who Dane and Scout are and what their relationship appears to be. And then you start Beautiful Broken and Nazarea shows us that there is so much more to these two characters hiding behind the surface.
This particular book starts off sometime after This Love ends. Scout is just getting out of rehab and Dane is there to take care of her just like always. It is easy to tell that Scout has had a troubled, troubled life. From drugs to many failed stints in rehab, to a life of partying and recklessness, and of course that one tragic night long ago that started it all. Even though Scout has tried and failed in the past to stay clean, she really means it this time and she works hard to stay away from drugs despite how hard it is for her. In this book she struggled with her addiction and deep scars from her past…a lot, but that never stopped her from trying to stay clean. Even though she saw herself as this broken person, I couldn’t help but think the opposite, that she was a strong, determined character. What I appreciated most about Scout, even more than her determination and strength, was the fact that she was so very human. She made mistakes, she struggled, she had moments in this book were she was almost at the breaking point. As crazy is it sounds for those things to be my favorite part, it is the truth. Nazarea has such a talent for writing characters that are flawed in the best way possible.
Now here I am going on and on about Scout. And as great of a character as she is, I cannot forget about the one and only Dane. Let me start off by saying I HATED him in This Love. Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration but he dumped coffee on Avery. It’s hard to forget something like that! Despite my initial feelings regarding Dane, I couldn’t help but fall for him in this book. The same fierce protectiveness he has over his best friend, Atticus in This Love, is perhaps shadowed by his feelings for Scout in Beautiful Broken. I love, love, loved how much he clearly cares for her and how much he wants to protect her from the pain of her past. Dane proved to be as strong of a character as Scout. We learn that he is perhaps just as broken as she is but instead of turning to drugs now, he turns to women to cope with the loss of his mother and sister. Watching him support and take care of Scout during her time of need while also dealing with his own demons definitely redeemed him for me and made me almost totally forget the whole dumping of the coffee incident.
The connection between these two was undeniably strong. Dane and Scout have known each other practically their entire lives. Dane has been almost like a second big brother to Scout and considering the fact that he was there to pick up the pieces every time she crumbled apart, you could even say he was much more than a big brother figure to her, he was more like her hero. Dane is just as loyal as he is protective towards his best friend. Seeing how torn he is between his growing feelings for Scout in the not-so-little-sister-way and his promise to Atticus that he would keep Scout safe only solidified that. With a whole lifetime of memories between them and of course Atticus, it would seem like a romance between these two is unlikely. But they each harbor such deep feeling for one another that when the romance does show up, it really shows up. It is no secret that my favorite types of romance is the “I really like you and we shouldn’t be together but we’re going to be anyway” kind and Nazarea hit it head on with these two. I could practically feel their passion for one another through the buttons on my nook.
I adored Scout as a character, adored Dane as a character, and of course adored the history between them. And as much as I adored the romance and sexy times between them as well, I wish this story focused a little less than that and a little more on the underlying, deeper issues in the book. I LOVED that Nazarea focused on addiction and I LOVE that she also focused on rape. I thought she handled both topics, which can both be touchy, with such great care but it still felt a bit unfinished for me. The ending came somewhat abruptly and there was a whole lot going on in the last few chapters so perhaps that’s why I am feeling this way but at the same time, Dane’s issues with his father are left unresolved, Scout, drug free, yes, still has what I am assuming are tons of pent-up feelings after facing her rapist, and then there’s the whole Atticus finding out about them thing that still seemed unfinished to me. The story is great regardless, I just wish a few of those things were addressed a bit more in the last few chapters of the book.
Beautiful Broken proved to be yet another great NA book by Nazarea Andrews. I didn’t think it would be possible but I fell for Dane and Scout’s story just a bit more than Atticus and Avery’s. I appreciated that there was a past between these two. Knowing each other and being there for one another for so many years allowed for a greater level of understanding between them. I loved the romance that built between Dane and Scout but even more, I loved that these two seemingly broken characters were there for one another when they each needed it most. If you read and loved This Love then you need to do yourself a favor and pick up Beautiful Broken real soon!(less)
Holy frick you guys. I was not expecting the pure brilliance that is this book. I was expecting a little sadness, a little character growth, and a lit...moreHoly frick you guys. I was not expecting the pure brilliance that is this book. I was expecting a little sadness, a little character growth, and a little romance. What I didn’t think I was going to get was two main characters who totally and completely captured my heart with their pain, their pasts, and their love. I was not expecting a purely exceptional cast of side characters who were so awesome and dynamic and just awesome (did I mention that they are awesome?) that I felt like I had made the world’s greatest group of friends by the end of the book. And most importantly, I was not expecting to have my heart practically ripped out only to have Jessica piece it back together again with such a beautiful story of friendship, heartbreak, and love. Basically, Left Drowning exceeded all of my wildest expectations and left me thinking about the story and the characters days after reading the book.
After her parent’s death four years ago, Blythe McGuire is drowning in pain, loneliness, guilt, and sorrow. At a loss with how to cope with such a tragic event, Blythe turns into a loner. She goes to classes, gets drunk at the occasional party, makes drunken phone calls to her estranged younger brother, and alienates herself from those people who care for her. Blythe’s pain was nearly palpable throughout this whole story, most importantly at the beginning. I felt that just by reading the book, that I was experiencing all of those feelings with her. I wanted so bad to console her, help her, take the pain from her, just something to make it at least a little better for her. But since this was a book (i.e. not real) I had to leave the saving up to some other people. Luckily they were freaking amazeballs.
Blythe is saved by a group of people known as the Shepherd siblings. They are all the absolute best. They are all unique and quirky and downright loveable and now I am going to tell you why…
Sabin Shepherd invades Blythe’s life one early morning. It starts off when he waltzes in, steals her coffee, causes a scene, acts like a crazy person, and makes Blythe feel something for the first time in a long time and I am not talking anger over the stolen coffee here people. I am talking about something akin to friendship. Just being around Sabin makes Blythe feel just a sliver of normalcy and she knows from the very beginning that she’s found herself a forever-friend.
After her weird encounter with Sabin, Blythe finds herself at the beach. While there, pondering life’s greater mysteries and tragedies, Blythe spots a boy and as we all know, spotting a boy on the beach is where all of the ooey gooey feelings begin. Christopher Shepherd is a beautiful boy, hiding a terrible past, and Blythe soon feels an instant connection to. Just a forewarning to all of you: Christopher = ALL OF THE SA-WOON! Anyways… Blythe spends the day with Christopher, enjoying his easy company, the way he makes her feel all of the feelings (good and bad), how he seems so familiar, the way that he is oh so easy on the eyes, and how she feels comfortable enough to open up to him about her parents. Before long, Blythe is thrust into the Shepherd family, finding herself surrounded by friends for the first time since her parent’s death.
Christopher and Blythe form a unique relationship. There is an obvious attraction and connection between these two from the very beginning and being comfortable with one another in a way that neither person has experienced before only adds to it. But with Blythe’s not-so-secret past and the fact that Christopher is hiding something dark about his, these two start off sort of together without really being together. Lines defining their relationship are blurred and crossed and downright ignored more than a few times but regardless of where they stand romantically, Christopher saves Blythe in nearly every way. He is there for her when she breaks down. He holds her when she needs to cry, is there for her when she gets her life back on track, helps her to form a relationship with her brother again, and smiles with her when she experiences happiness again. He’s just there and for Blythe, that’s what she really needs. Didn’t I tell you he was worth all of the sa-woon? But wait, because it gets better…or worse, depending on how you look at it.
Christopher is what I like to call beautifully broken. He is so strong, put together, sweet, unbelievably steady, loyal to a fault, full of love and passion that it’s almost hard to detect that there’s something not quite right going on with him. Behind that perfect exterior, Chris is hiding pain, tragic memories, guilt, and a weight on his shoulders that is nearly dragging him down. It is because of this that I love Christopher even more. He feels like he is unworthy of the happiness and love that Blythe offers him but his story proves otherwise. This boy deserves all of the love and all of the happiness in the world.
The rest of the characters prove to be just as complex and vital to this story as Blythe and Christopher are. The Shepherd siblings are there for Blythe during her time of need. The numbness wears off and it’s like she’s experiencing her parent’s death all over again. Being around these people makes her feel alive again and with truly being alive comes ALL of the feelings. Sabin’s crazy, wacky, hilarious personality and never-ending friendship helps her get through a lot of the tough times. Eric’s quiet, steady, easy-going personality gives Blythe a sense of calm whenever she is around him. Hanging around tough-girl Estelle gives Blythe a little bit of sass and quite the potty mouth. Christopher, along with all of his siblings help save Blythe. She was drowning and then this family swooped in and saved her with their closeness, quirkiness, and friendship.
However, these characters share, at least a little bit, of the darkness that lingers in Christopher’s past. It started out with Blythe being the one who was drowning in a world of pain but the Shepherd family find themselves going under too and Blythe has to step up and save them. Learning about what all of these characters went through, Christopher in particular, absolutely broke my heart. I first saw them as this happy, loving family and when I saw the pain they were masking, I just wanted to hug it all away from them.
No one wants to see characters they love go through crippling, tough times. And the things is, I truly love all of these characters, but this story wouldn’t be the same without all of the pain that each and every one of them go through. I was able to see how strong, brilliant, and capable of happiness that Blythe was. I saw her go from this shell of a girl to a girl so full of love for her family and friends. I was able to watch as Christopher stood behind Blythe in her time of need, ran away when his pain became too much, and then finally learn to accept the love that Blythe had for him. As for the other Shepherd siblings, seeing them change from this vibrant group of people to broken and lost individuals shattered my heart. But experiencing situations like what these characters went through, and surviving the pain that comes along with it, shows just how strong and resilient all of them characters were.
I guess what I am trying to say with this mess of a review, is that Jessica Park will crush your freaking spirits with Left Drowning. You will feel absolutely torn through most of this book. She will make you bawl like baby, want to throw the book across the room and then maybe stomp on it, you will probably resort to eating 5 spoonfuls of cookie dough to make the pain go away, and it’s likely that you will use an entire box tissues but in the end none of that will even matter. Every heart-shattering, crushing, breaking minute will all be worth it because the end result is just so freaking perfectly imperfect, beautiful, and just right that none of that other stuff will even matter.(less)