The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk
Thank you so much PRH International for including me in this blog tour!
Release Date: 6th March, 2018
Published by Delacorte Press, Blog Tour by Penguin Random House International
Music brought Autumn, Shay, and Logan together. Death wants to tear them apart.
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.
“They say that dead people who have unfinished business with the living become ghosts. That their spirits linger here, or in limbo somewhere, and that they can’t rest in peace until they’ve done whatever it is that they needed to do. But no one ever talks about the living who have unfinished business with the dead. Where is the plane they’re banished to, and how do they ever find peace again?”
I had the absolute pleasure and heartbreak of reading THE BEAUTY THAT REMAINS by Ashley Woodfolk, a debut YA novel that explores the theme of death, grief and coping with loss. For obvious reasons this was one difficult book to read; it was heart wrenching, painful and beautiful at the same time. For the subject that it deals with and the honest sincerity and sensibility with which it approaches loss, TBTR is a novel for both teens and adults. While it’s not a handbook on how to deal with the death of a loved one, it reflects the painful struggle that many teens go through: trying to deal with loss alone. The novel is told from three first person perspectives – each is emotionally vivid and very personal. I’m not fond of this approach, but thankfully the author used the narrative style to her advantage. The book isn’t perfect, but Ashley Woodfolk is definitely a writer to look out for.
Autumn, Shay and Logan have each lost someone very close to them: a bestfriend, a twin sister and an ex-boyfriend. As each of these teens try to survive their reality and cope with their loss, the common thread that runs through their stories and narratives is music. I recently rediscovered a connection to music that I’d lost, so for this reason alone I loved the clutch of music in the novel. I loved Sasha’s mini reviews of bands (Shay’s late twin sister), I recognized Logan’s struggle to write new songs as something I’ve personally also been through. Each character is connected to Unravelling Lovely, the band Logan was a part of. This band is the novel’s personal fairy dust, the link that adds magic in the lives of the characters.
An important struggle shared by the three teens is their loneliness in dealing with grief. They feel responsible in some way, and each has to come to grips with the fact that life doesn’t work according to plan, that life is as turbulent as it is full of beauty. While I felt the presence of adults in the lives of YA characters continues to be negligible, the Moms in this book did better than most. Friendship is without a doubt essential to the story – whether it’s the loss of a friend or the discovery of new ones; TBTR is all about celebrating the people you have in your life while remembering those you lost. Shay’s friend’s in particular were a great cast in the book and I enjoyed reading their banter and getting to know their group dynamics.
The flow of the writing, the intelligent prose and the overall strength of emotions portrayed makes TBTR a rewarding read. It’s one of those books that shine simply because it’s the story the author was meant to tell. But it’s also the kind of story that can feel a bit repetitive and overrun with the same sort of feelings.
Perhaps my only prominent complain about the book is the blur between Shay and Autumn’s character that sometimes manifested. They often felt very similar, almost interchangeable. I’d be reading one of the narratives and suddenly not remember whether its Shay or Autumn. I leaned more towards Shay’s story and the ‘twinless’ reality that she now has to accept and grow in. I felt her world was better developed in the book.
Overall, this is an incredible YA with realistic characters, relationships and emotions. I loved the social media posts at the start of each chapter, it brought the dead characters to life in a way and also made the story more timely and showed the way social media plays a role in our remembrances and mourning. And the cover? Absolutely stunning.