The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk
Title & Author: The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Series Details: Standalone
Page Count: 331 pages (ARC version)
Description: “Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.
But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.
Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.”
“No one ever talks about the living who have unfinished business with the dead.”
Told in a trio of alternating POVs, Woodfolk’s emotional debut centers on that exact dilemma through the lives of three diverse characters all mourning the death of a loved one:
Autumn, an adopted Korean teen, is lost after the sudden and unexpected death of her best friend, Tavia; Logan, a red-haired gay teen, is struggling with grief and guilt after his ex-boyfriend, Bram, commits suicide; and Shay, an African American teen, is fighting to keep her panic attacks at bay after her twin sister, Sasha, loses her years-long battle with Leukemia.
“Losing a twin is like losing a leg – you forget how to stand on your own because you never needed to.”
Since the characters have already faced the unimaginable, the story focuses entirely on what comes after tragedy strikes. It’s about how these characters deal and attempt to resolve that unfinished business.
“I never said sorry after our fight…and now I’ll never get to tell him I’m sorry. It all seems so stupid now.”
By focusing so heavily on the characters’ individual routes to acceptance we’re blessed with credible plot lines and real emotions. We’re exposed to flashes of the denial, guilt, anger, and depression the characters come up against. We’re privy to #squadgoal friendships, positive representations of therapy, support groups, interventions, and reaching out for help. BUT the burden of all that detail is that it doesn’t feel like anything happens.
Maybe I’m too used to reading thrillers with twists every few chapters, or romances where the will-they-won’t-they keeps us guessing. Maybe I’m bitter because I didn’t cry and was hyped and prepped for tears. Whatever the reason may be, I just felt like nothing had truly gone down by the end of this novel. However, it’d be irresponsible for me to not point out that there’s a strength in that and how it emulates life. And at the end of the day it’ll serve as a better tool for grieving readers by being so firmly rooted in realism.
Whether you can relate personally or not, this novel manages to pull off some serious subject matter with laughs, love, and good advice. And if you’ll let her, Woodfolk will guide you to the light by shifting your focus to “the beauty that remains.”
Thank you so much to Delacorte Press for providing a copy of this eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All quotes were taken from an unfinished proof and may change by final publication date.