BEAUTIFUL BROKEN THINGS revolves around Caddy, a sixteen-year-old teenager whose life up until this point has been painfully unextraordinary. She gets good grades, never breaks her parents rules, and is wallowing in worry that she will never lose her virginity. In fact, the only merely exciting person in Caddy’s life is Rosie, her best friend. That is, until the wild and tragic Suzanne whirls into Caddy’s life, forming a wedge between the two best friends – is Caddy losing Rosie to Suzanne?
But the more Suzanne reveals of her past, the more Caddy warms to her – and is swept away with her. Maybe Suzanne is just what Caddy needs to escape her ‘The Nice One’ reputation.
BEAUTIFUL BROKEN THINGS does a decent job of depicting the mind of a teenage girl; Caddy’s general lack of life experience, the constant need to be validated by other people and the endless wishing for approval from her parents, are all things a few of us will remember chasing into our twenties. But the genius behind this book is that it touches on issues far more serious, such as domestic violence, the ugly influences of alcohol, depression and teenage suicide. The representations are realistic and believable. An interesting addition to Barnard’s novel is Caddy’s sister Tarin, a Bipolar suffer who offers a uniquely blunt but much-needed reality check to its storyline.
As far as plot goes, it couldn’t hurt to undergo a bit of tweaking. In places it can feel a bit monogamous; Suzanne gets in trouble, Caddy gets in trouble, Rosie and Caddy fall out. The fact that the girls go to separate schools means the readers miss out on past-paced would be scenes such as Suzanne’s suspension, and lot of the action feels so everyday that you are probably better off doing those things instead of reading about them. However, Barnard cannot be faulted on her ending. It is one of those closings that you want to ball your eyes at, but know you probably shouldn’t because at the end of the day, it is what is best for the characters. In the end, Caddy, Suzanne and Rosie do not get what they hoped for, but they do all get what they need, which is probably one of the hardest life lessons of all.
Barnard should also be praised for her representation of the characters. For most readers, they will find themselves in Caddy’s shoes, but Rosie is also a worthwhile character most of us will come across in our lives. She is cynical, remarkably sarcastic and ready to take you down a peg or two should you need it, but Rosie is also fiercely loyal and witty. Then there is Suzanne, a true testament to bravery, strength and survival. She is not the hero who has overcome the darkest moments of her life and come out shinning on the other side. Suzanne is reckless, at times selfish, but she is a fighter. She refuses to be the cliché, and will no longer let her life be controlled by those in it, even if that means suffering a few mistakes along the way. One thing this book teaches its readers is that when it comes to friends suffering with any mental illness, there is no correct thing you can do or say. It is not your job to “fix” them. But what you can do is show as much loyalty as Caddy and just be there for the worst of it.