Since Ava lost Kelly, things haven’t been going so well. Even before she gets thrown out of school for shouting at the principal, there’s the simmering rage and all the weird destructive choices. The only thing going right for Ava is her job at Magic Kebab.
Which is where she meets Gideon. Skinny, shy, anxious Gideon. A mad poet and collector of vinyl records with an aversion to social media. He lives in his head. She lives in her grief. The only people who can help them move on with their lives are each other.
Wow. I went into reading this novel with high expectations, and it was even more beautiful and raw than I could have imagined. Beautiful Mess is the story of two teenagers, both struggling in their different ways, who come together and support one another through their pain. Neither character fixes the other. Their relationship is messy at times, but that’s what I loved most about Ava and Gideon. They’re genuine, complex characters with vibrant personalities who make mistakes. Beautiful Mess is a book that made me tear-up, shout at the pages, cry over the characters, and beg for more. It was stunning.
Beautiful Mess is a story that’s permeated with loss and grief, but it still manages to be a novel that isn’t defined by how sad it is. It touches on mental illness and self-harm and suicide, and it does so in a way that’s both raw and full of candour. The struggles that Ava and Gideon are experiencing are ones that we’ll all be able to identify or empathise with, and there’s something about this novel that is just so universally compelling. It’s a story that kept me hooked from beginning to end, and I’m already planning a reread. It was just phenomenal.
One of my favourite things about Beautiful Mess was the authenticity of the relationship between Ava and Gideon. I adored the pop culture references that was intertwined in their conversations—conversations that were able to flow from those of humour to ones quite deep and sometimes confronting without feeling disjointed or clunky. As this novel is told from both Ava and Gideon’s perspective, readers are given a clearer insight into their lives and their experiences, which allowed me to connect with them both on such a deep level. Personally, I related to Gideon more, but these two characters were incredibly genuine and I loved how they just seemed to leap from the pages.
What made this novel a stand-out read for me was the honest portrayal of Gideon’s experience with his therapist. I felt that there are a lot of Young Adult novels about mental health out there, but only few of them discuss treatment options or way of learning to live with mental illness. It was refreshing to read about a character who didn’t vehemently hate their therapist, and I loved seeing the honesty and trust between them. I also felt that the discussions about self-harm were done with both sensitivity and honesty, and Claire Christian must be commended for tackling some of the most confronting themes in YA with sincerity and heart.
Beautiful Mess is a powerful, poignant novel about love, loss, and learning that even though we might feel cracked or broken at times, we are still beautiful. If you’re looking for a moving, heartfelt read, I highly recommend picking up this gem.
Please be aware that Beautiful Mess may be triggering for some readers.
Have you read Beautiful Mess yet? Do you enjoy reading novels surrounding themes of mental health? What’s the best YA novel you’ve read with a protagonist who has a mental illness? I’d love to know!
Thanks to Text Publishing Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!