The Beauty That Remains is a contemporary novel that follows three grieving teenagers brought together by art. It’s a short, hard-hitting book, and while I loved its premise, sometimes I found the execution underwhelming.
Autumn is the first character we meet. She is a Korean-American adoptee who has recently lost her best friend in a car accident. Her chapters, unlike the other two PoVs, are written in email form to her dead best friend. This change in the narration took me out of the book many times.
Autumn’s romance with Dante, her dead best friend’s brother, lacked chemistry; it felt unnecessary, but so did everything in her chapters –Autumn lacked a personality, and this book would have been better without her PoV. The only thing I liked about it is that it allowed the book to show three teens reacting to grief in very different ways, but that’s not enough.
I really liked some aspects of Logan’s storyline. He is a white gay boy whose ex-boyfriend died by suicide, and he feels responsible for what happened. I liked Logan because he is a mess, and this meant that unlike Autumn he actually had substantial character development. After the break-up and Bram’s death, Logan is angry, lost and develops a drinking problem. In his PoV we see one of the best portrayals of therapy I’ve found in a YA book. Also, I could actually feel Logan’s love for music.
What I didn’t like was that not all the messy things he says and does at the beginning of the book are addressed, especially the biphobic assumptions – yes, there’s unchallenged biphobia in this book – and his character arc could have gone further.
But yeah, I guess it added insult to injury that it was some basic bitch cheerleader and not another guy. How could I even compete with a girl?” […] “If it had been another guy, I could have convinced him I was the better choice. But if he wanted a girl, he couldn’t also want me.
Yes, Logan is grieving and definitely not in a good place, but there are many things wrong with this, and only the misogyny and jealousy actually get addressed (he is friends with that cheerleader by the end of the book). But the biphobia, which is not only in this paragraph? I didn’t see anything about that.
The third PoV we follow is Shay’s. Shay is a black teenager who has recently become “twinless” because of leukemia. Her sister used to write music reviews, and Shay’s story is about coming to terms with what happened, getting help and eventually continuing to work on her sister’s site.
I loved the theme of friendship in Shay’s storyline. Her friends can’t always be close to her because of what happened, but they try to support Shay in every way they can, and even if they weren’t that developed as characters, I loved their scenes.
“So you want to be just friends?”
“For now,” I say. “But don’t say ‘just friends.’ Friends are really important to me.”
This book had some scenes that will stick with me, and themes I don’t see explored very often (especially not with such a diverse cast), but it was also deeply flawed, and I definitely could have done without the bisexual cheater trope.
My rating: ★★★½