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The Beauty That Remains

Review

The Beauty That Remains

THE BEAUTY THAT REMAINS, Ashley Woodfolk’s diverse debut, follows the points of view of three different high school age teenagers --- Autumn, Shay and Logan --- who are brought together through their own tragic losses and the music of a local band, Unraveling Lovely. The loss of loved ones affects each of the characters in very different ways. Autumn sends emails to her best friend which she knows will forever remain unanswered. Shay faces crippling panic attacks from the loss of her twin sister, Sasha. Logan is sent into a deep spiral that causes him to loop his ex-boyfriend’s YouTube videos on repeat. Despite the circumstances, each character looks to prove that they can overcome the odds and find the beauty that remains within their life.

"Woodfolk does a phenomenal job of creating a unique character arc for each of the three narrators....a very honest and poignant novel...."

This contemporary novel has been drawing my eye for a while with its gorgeous cover and stellar blurbs. Regardless of the outside appearance, I was interested to see the manner in which THE BEAUTY THAT REMAINS depicted grief. Losing a loved one, especially ones who are as close to the characters within the novel, is never easy. Each person handles grief in a unique manner. The recovery process can be easier for some than others, but from the onset it is clear that each of the characters are in for a struggle. This leads them to resort to some pretty unsafe behavior, such as drinking and doing drugs.

Throughout the novel, underage teens are depicted consuming alcohol and smoking joints. This particularly threw me off as there is never a clear and concise reprimand to their behavior. Many of the parents within the novel are unaware of their children’s actions and the one counselor who learns about one of the grieving teen’s drinking problems simply encourages him to limit his consumption. I find this fact rather jarring. It should be made very obvious to the reader that the manner that some of teens go about handling grief in this book is clearly unsafe. While I do not believe by any means it was the intent of the author to support these actions, I would argue that there could have been more of an attempt made to send a message about underage drug consumption. Living in the twenty-first century, many teens should very well be educated about the negative health effects of consuming any material that would be defined as a drug. It irks me to see characters in the present day setting so negligently defiling their health. Grief should not be an excuse for this behavior by any means. I hope that this was simply a poor oversight by the author in order to focus on depicting the overall picture.

Despite this one rough patch, I believe Woodfolk did a decent job of depicting the ups and downs of grief. In order to manage the many conflicts that the characters are faced with throughout the novel, they rely on friends or family members for support. The way the characters bond over their shared grief is a very beautiful thing. It was by far my favorite part of the novel.

In order for the characters to come together, the reader gets to explore the depth of the characters within THE BEAUTY THAT REMAINS, allowing for a novel that contains marvelous character development. As much as the characters go through their rough patches, they come together in the end and do what is necessary to help themselves recover. If it means finding a sense of support within your friend group, attending support group meetings or speaking with a counselor, each of the characters find a path that will benefit themselves in the end.

To further expand on the characters, there must be a discussion about the diversity within this novel. Autumn is an adopted Korean-American teen. Shay is an African American teen who has lost her twin sister to leukemia. Logan is a gay teen who is learning to come out of the closet and accept his identity. With each of the character’s differing backgrounds, Woodfolk does a phenomenal job of creating a unique character arc for each of the three narrators that strongly reflects their origins.

For those who are looking for a very honest and poignant novel dealing with love, loss and music, THE BEAUTY THAT REMAINS is the perfect pick for you.

Reviewed by Gabby B., Teen Board Member on March 14, 2018

The Beauty That Remains
by Ashley Woodfolk