Karen's Reviews > This Beautiful Life

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman
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's review
Mar 12, 2012

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Read in March, 2012

When teenagers lack parental guidance and have the freedom of a big city and unlimited funds, trouble is bound to follow. While Jake Bergamot tries to fit in with his new ultra-privileged, ill-mannered schoolmates, a single click of the mouse threatens to change his life forever.

The Bergamots move to Manhattan from the comfortable up-state town of Ithaca when Richard accepts an executive position at the university. The family finds themselves struggling to adapt to the well-to-do lifestyle, a far cry from the life they left behind. When Jake opens an email from a younger female admirer, his shock at the explicit video attached distracts him from his initial reaction - that he sent it to his best friend. Before he had the time to think about the repercussions of that action, the video has gone viral.

Schulman found a very important and relevant topic for the 21st century. This story takes place in 2003, nearly 10 years ago, however things haven’t gotten any better since. Today, our youth are glued to their smart phones and social networking sites. Provocative pictures and videos have reached a new level of self identification. I fear at this young age, they can’t even comprehend the repercussions of their actions and how they could influence the future.

This heartbreaking novel is highly inappropriate in so many ways. I have read some of the negative comments and reviews and I wonder if their aversion to this story is a glimpse of what they hate about today’s society and modern technology. These things are happening out there right now. Not just in the big metropolis of New York, but in small town Nebraska too and it doesn’t matter what your social standing is.

As a mother of a young teenage girl, I initially thought this would be a fantastic book for her to read. I am always trying to find progressive ways to teach her the costs of poor decisions. However, in no way is this book appropriate for her thirteen year old mind. Instead, Schulman wrote an explicit novel about a serious lack of judgment by this young girl who is the same age as my daughter.

I question who the target audience is that the author is writing for. This story could give the wrong message to the younger, immature reader and I fear some of the graphic details could peak their curiosities. Their minds still believe it couldn’t happen to them. Perhaps the message should have focused on the ramifications Jack and Daisy lived with for the years following the viral disaster and less on the tasteless details.

Great story, poor delivery.


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