EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS NOT RUINED, BY DANIELLE YOUNGE-ULLMAN
PUBLICATION: VIKING BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS;
FEBRUARY 21, 2017
About the book:
Then: Ingrid traveled all over Europe with her opera star mother, Margot-Sophia. Life was beautiful and bright, and every day soared with music.
Now: Ingrid is on a summertime wilderness survival trek for at-risk teens—addicts, runaways, and her. She’s fighting to survive crushing humiliations, physical challenges that push her to her limits, and mind games that threaten to break her.
Then: When the curtain fell on Margot-Sophia’s singing career, they buried the past and settled into a small, painfully normal life. But Ingrid longed to let the music soar again. She wanted it so much that, for a while, nothing else mattered.
Now: Ingrid is never going to make it through this summer if she can’t figure out why she’s here, what happened to Margot-Sophia, and why the music really stopped.
Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined is a wonderful, yet heartbreaking novel from author Danielle Younge-Ullman. It tells the story of Ingrid, who during the summer after her junior year in high school, is sent to Peak Wilderness Camp in Ontario. Described to her as more of a fun, outdoor camp experience, she soon realizes that it is a challenging three-week experience for at-risk teens, both physically and emotionally. Ingrid grew up all over the world with her mother/famous opera singer Margot-Sophia who, after losing that career, sank into a long-term depression and wanted no more music in the home.
This novel is told from Ingrid’s point of view, including journal entries while at Peak Wilderness, as well as, flashbacks to various stages of her childhood and adolescence. The journal entries are mostly letters to her mother but include a few to Ingrid’s friend and high school crush, Issac. I must admit that although I immediately loved Ingrid’s wit and sarcasm, the first ten to fifteen pages seemed to drag a bit. However, I quickly fell in love with her character and was unable to put this one down until I had read it in its entirety.
The flashbacks started with her childhood and having a mother that was a famous opera singer but they continue on while she is growing up depicting the changes in her mother and their lives overall. Ingrid endures numerous hardships and heartbreaks that I feel a great deal of young adult and adult readers could relate to but also suffers unimaginable pain and loss.
The present action is a mix between first-hand experiences and conversations that Ingrid has while at the camp, as well as, her journal entries. The ups and downs of her entries to her mother were amazing as I watched her struggle to understand why she had been sent to this camp, her moments of clarity about what is was about, but then questioning and reframing again and again. It was impossible to ignore the changes in Ingrid over those twenty-one days, especially the incredible inner and outer strength that she developed.
I cannot say that I was an “at-risk teen,” but I will say that I gave my family a run for their money. Countless times I saw packets arrive in the mail providing information about programs similar to Peak Wilderness. Some looked cool, some, not so much. But it was discussed/threatened/etc. more times than I would like to admit. For whatever reason, I was never sent to a program like Ingrid did, but have heard amazing things about them.
Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined will bring out a variety of emotions while you read. There are wonderful moments, proud moments, and absolutely heart-wrenching moments. The novel is written beautifully, almost as a tribute to language itself. The author blended both moments of celebration and moments of regret, yet it left me feeling hopeful and happy for Ingrid. Several issues are addressed in this novel related to teens and young adults as far as bullying, intimacy, substance abuse, homelessness, sexuality, and so on. I think each and every issue was handled in a respectful manner and could be of help to others out there struggling with these issues themselves.
I highly, highly recommend checking this novel out. The story is important, relatable, and empowering. It is also a story that will remain with me for quite some time.
*Special thanks to XpressoReads/Book Tours for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.