Crazy Messy Beautiful
In CRAZY MESSY BEAUTIFUL, from Carrie Arcos, the author of OUT OF REACH and THERE WILL COME A TIME, introduces Neruda Diaz, a high schooler with a disappointing love life. Despite Neruda’s namesake, the famous love poet Pablo Neruda, Neruda can’t seem to catch a break with his newest crush, Autumn.
"CRAZY MESSY BEAUTIFUL lives up to its title; Neruda’s story is impractical yet somehow feels surprisingly realistic. Neruda’s narration flows easily and accurately represents the thoughts of a teenager...."
However, despite Autumn’s rejection, Neruda seems to have a chance with his intriguing partner, Callie, when his English teacher asks the class to write an in depth essay about a randomly assigned partner. Neruda discovers that Callie, like him, is creative; Callie someday hopes to be a famous makeup artist while Neruda aspires to head to design school someday. Even though Neruda has dysgraphia and struggles with school, he loves to draw and paint portraits. Neruda embarks on one of the biggest projects of his life when he is assigned to design a mural for the school library, allowing his surprising new friendship with Callie to inspire him.
Unfortunately, Neruda’s art teacher assigns him to work with his enemy, Luis, which forces Neruda to work outside of his comfort zone. In addition to Neruda’s love life struggles and problems with Luis, Neruda overhears some shocking and disheartening information about his dad, which Neruda struggles to deal with. Along the way, Neruda has the support of his friend, Greyson, from art class, and his best friend, Ezra, who Neruda started writing letters to in third grade while Ezra was in prison for attempted robbery.
CRAZY MESSY BEAUTIFUL lives up to its title; Neruda’s story is impractical yet somehow feels surprisingly realistic. Neruda’s narration flows easily and accurately represents the thoughts of a teenager, and his struggles with school help prevent his character from seeming too perfect. Neruda’s friendship with Ezra, an ex-convict 10 years older than him seems strange at first, but ultimately adds to the novel as Ezra functions as a mentor and sounding board for Neruda’s problems. The details of the novel are beautiful, especially when Neruda describes artwork; Arcos carefully and patiently describes the works Neruda sees in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Another highlight of the novel is the relationship Neruda has with his parents. The portrayal of Neruda’s relationship with his dad, despite their problems, is genuine and heartfelt, but isn’t unrealistically upbeat. Neruda grows as a person throughout the novel, truly beginning to understand the meaning of love. The ending of CRAZY MESSY BEAUTIFUL demonstrates Neruda’s new understanding of how to be present in the lives of those he truly cares about, leaving the reader satisfied and hopeful for his feature. CRAZY MESSY BEAUTIFUL will be a gratifying read for those interested in novels by John Green or readers who love to see and create art.
Reviewed by Janine Chouinard on March 15, 2017