Beautiful Mess reviewed by Annie

Ava is in year eleven when her best friend Kelly dies. She is angry at her, feels guilty, and thinks everyone wants her to just move on. But she can’t. It’s only been six months and she’s still grieving. The only person who seems to understand is Kelly’s brother Lincoln, so they hook up over their shared loss.

She works part-time at Magic Kebab and the new dishwasher, Gideon, has his own baggage. Bullied at his previous school, he then had a breakdown at fourteen and moved to the same school as Ava, where he is in year twelve. He describes himself as a ‘lanky, introverted, awkward poet with big hair and questionable fashion sense’.

Despite their differences they start talking and then writing letters to one another and realise what they share in common. Both are not in traditional families. Ava’s mother has been mostly absent and she has been raised by her father. Gideon has two mums.

The voices are so authentic, and the issues real and raw – depression, suicide and self-harm. It demonstrates how loss changes you. As Ava says ‘our brains can haunt us from the inside’. But it also addresses working out ways to deal with it and the benefit of therapy.

Claire Christian also raises slightly lighter underlying topics of not judging people based on what they look like or where they go to school, there’s no such thing as normal, everyone has things going on in their lives, and the perceptions we have of ourselves are often different to the ones others have of us.

It sounds heavy and dismal but there are humorous parts, and hope. It took me back to my teenaged years, and reminded me of myself and others at that time.

It is written to help those who might be experiencing something similar, or know someone who is. As Christian writes at the end, – ‘If you or someone you know needs help you can seek assistance … It’s okay to not be okay. It does get better. Talk. You matter. Love Claire’.

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