Jack Dahl is living a teenage experience no teenager should live. His father is in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, but a robbery he did. And his mother has just committed suicide at the tail end of opioid addiction by hanging herself in her bedroom. Her son, Jack, is left to bury her in the frozen ground behind their house (a house they no longer own; it’s just been foreclosed) and look after his young brother, Matty, with a meager thirteen dollars to his name and little food.
Jack is determined to survive and not to let the state take Matty away. He seeks out his dad in prison, begging him for the location of the money from the robbery (actually, drug money). But there’s a price attached to that information, someone willing to kill for the money’s location. That someone is Bardem, a vicious killer. Someone not to be crossed. And no one understands that better than Ava, who witnessed her mother’s disappearance at his hands. But Ava will not leave Jack and Matty without help. Even if it means going against the most dangerous man she knows — her father.
What Beauty There Is is a heartbreaking portrayal of growing up with only fringes of hope, of the unbreakable bond between brothers and the tender bonds of friendship. Anderson’s writing is pure poetry, each word measured and exact. The atmosphere (winter-chilled and unforgiving) is conjured in moments, leaving your heart to soar and shatter through the movements of this tightly-plotted thriller. Not least because Jack, Matty, and Ava feel so incomparably real.
A marvel of a debut novel. A true knockout.
Book: What Beauty There Is
Age Range: 13 – 18
Publication Date: April 8th, 2021
Penguin Random House kindly sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.