Thursday, August 17, 2017

REVIEW: Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman is a book entirely unlike the one I expected to read.  I honestly picked this book up because it has this lovely summery looking cover and I mistakenly thought it'd be a fluffy, light romance. Instead this book is a hard-hitting look at family, mental illness, and finding the strength to carry on when times are tough.  It wasn't the book I was expecting but it was definitely a worthwhile read for and I'm really glad that I picked it up.

Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined is told in two parts, Then and Now. Our main character, Ingrid, is at a three week intensive summer camp for 'at-risk youth' and while relaying her experiences of that ordeal she also walks us through her family history growing up with her larger-than-life opera singer mother, Margot-Sophia. We know that Margot-Sophia has asked Ingrid specifically to come to this survival camp but not the reasons why.

Honestly though, this book.  It was tough to read in parts.  And while I don't always love the dual time-line thing with the Then and Now, with this book I was pretty evenly gripped with finding out what had happened in the past and keeping updated with what was happening in the present. Ingrid was a character that I felt sympathy for right away.  You can tell she's gone through a lot in her young life and is just trying to get by.

It was interesting reading of experiences growing up, being immersed in this unusual lifestyle as her mother performed in different locations throughout Europe. The way Ingrid talks about her mother and the music that her mom produced was utterly lovely. The way her mom's music transported her to other plays, her skill and talent. Which I guess is why they both took it pretty hard when Margot-Sophia's singing career abruptly ends and mother and daughter end up living a semi-normal (boring) life in the suburbs.

Meanwhile, at this camp, Ingrid is struggling with the physicality of hiking in the woods with a huge pack, dealing with the lack of showers or clean clothes, sharing a tent. The other campers have quite serious problems: getting over addictions, getting out of jail etc. It seems that Ingrid doesn't quite belong ...but subtle hints throughout the narrative suggest the possibility that Ingrid is right where she belongs.

Together with the story about the music in the past and the hard work in the present, we also see Ingrid deal with her own romantic relationships: her friendship turned possibly something more in the past, and her dealings with the boy she shares her tent with in the present gave this story some much-needed areas of swoon.

In many ways, Ingrid's story felt very personal to me.  The uncertainty of her childhood is something I could relate to, as is the instability of Margot-Sophia's mental health throughout. I did love that Ingrid ended up holding on to some things in her life: her love of music and the calming influence of her step-father.  I really, really loved this book.

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