Ellie Summerfield has a picture-perfect life. As a high school senior, she is a model student, natural leader, and active charity volunteer. All in all, she is looking ahead to a bright and beautiful future.
Her ‘bad sister’ Megan on the other hand is the exact opposite. Disillusioned with life and definitely not part of the ‘in crowd’ she is one of those people who doesn’t really see the attraction of staying in the mold and following all the rules.
But when a horrible accident leaves Ellie’s dreams shattered and her body disfigured, she and Megan must help each other look beyond the surface to discover the true definition of beauty and the purpose of life.
As sisters ourselves, we (Hadassah and Kelila) especially connected with the sister-dynamic this story displays. We were nervous about reading a young adult novel because many books in this genre tend to be gory or erotic. However, this one proved to be clean and wholesome while still realistic.
As a multilayered, character driven story, we found the various personalities and plot-threads engaging and thought-provoking. The story dealt head-on with such difficult topics as depression, brokenness, and the healing process, handling them both carefully and authentically.
In a counselling session the counselor asks Ellie:
“Do you think your life has the value that it had before?” (p 174)
She (Ellie) didn’t respond. Of course it didn’t. She was nothing now. Before, she was doing things for others; she was accomplishing goals; she was working hard. Now she did none of those things. Her life obviously didn’t have the same value. (p 175)
Watching the characters battle through layers of self-pity, desperation and guilt as they struggled towards healing and understanding made for an emotional read, but the author took pains to make the dialogue believable and relatable. The writing truly captured the emotions and battles of broken-yet-healing characters in a way that spoke to us.
The theme that stood out to us the most was the contrast between the world’s empty idea of beauty and the freedom that is found when our value comes instead from truth. “Truth’s found when beauty’s lost” was a consistent theme woven into this book. The characters had to come to grips with who they were and who they wanted to be.
She (Ellie) could be so many things, so many people. So much life stretched ahead of her, with countless possibilities… All her work had been to be someone of value and importance, and that had been wrong as well. Now she was scarred and changed. She was herself, and that was worth everything. (p 258)
At the back of the book there were some searching questions for reading the book as a group. Questions such as: What do you find meaningful? What do you think are some of the purposes in life? How can you be beautiful in those purposes? This type of book lends itself to group-reading and discussion. We found that reading it together built our friendship and encouraged us to go deeper into our understanding of ourselves and each other.
Reading together about characters our age dealing with difficult situations and tough questions truly was a captivating experience. We highly recommend this book as a thoughtful, engaging and exciting read for teens and young adults.
Hadassah (17) and Kelila (21) Murdock are two sisters who live and work on their family farm in South Carolina. They enjoy talking about stories with one another and hanging out with their family. When they aren’t taking care of the animals or working in the fields, they enjoy flower gardening, singing, and talking to their cousin on the phone. They credit their experiences at Write2Ignite for expanding their enjoyment of writing and storytelling.