Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard Review: This book broke me and not in a good way

March 23, 2016 by Jenna | 2 stars, Books, Reviews

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard Review: This book broke me and not in a good wayBeautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard
Published by Macmillan Children's Books (UK) on February 25th 2016
Source: Publisher
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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I was brave
She was reckless
We were trouble

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting.

Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

Beautiful Broken Things had the potential to be great but, unfortunately, I was completely underwhelmed and frustrated with the story and its characters. While the book did have some good moments, I couldn’t get past the annoying characters and slow-moving plot to enjoy it.

In this book, we meet 16-year-old Caddy, a girl who thinks of herself as boring and dull because nothing exciting has ever happened in her life. Her older sister has bipolar disorder and her best friend, Rosie, has suffered the loss of a baby sister. Caddy wants to experience a Significant Life Event just like the two of them and she’s determined to have one before she turns 17. Enter Suzanne, a girl with a dark past. She’s quickly taken under Rosie and Caddy’s wing and they come a group of three. To Caddy, Suzanne is exciting and fun, and she finds herself immersed in Suzanne’s troubles before she knows it…

The main reason why I didn’t enjoy this book at all was because none of the characters were likeable. Caddy is probably the most frustrating, annoying and stupid main character I have ever encountered. She was under the impression that something tragic needed to happen to her in order for her to be interesting. Her obsession with having a Significant Life Event really got on my nerves at the beginning of the book. Why can’t people just be happy with the good life that they have? Caddy was also a very insecure character, and the way that she acted really frustrated me. It bothered me that she just couldn’t stop prying about everything and acting like she was entitled to know everything about her friends. She got angry when Rosie and Suzanne didn’t tell her things or when they lied to her about things that they didn’t want her to know about. She read people’s private notes and manipulated them into spilling their secrets before they were ready to share them. I just could not find a single thing that I liked about Caddy, so the book was really tough to get through.

I also wasn’t a fan of Suzanne and wasn’t enamoured with the mystery that surrounded her, like all the characters seemed to. I didn’t see what Caddy and Rosie saw in her because, to me, she just seemed like a very troubled teen. I don’t think there was anything special about Suzanne and she came across as a very typical troubled teenager who disobeys adults and sneaks out of the house every night. Rosie was probably my favourite character of the three but she also behaved in ways that I didn’t like. She was very hot and cold when it came to her friendship with Suzanne. There were times when she was very chummy with her and other times when she just didn’t seem to care about her at all. Overall, I couldn’t connect with any of the main cast of characters in this book and, being a very character-driven story, not a lot could have redeemed it for me.

The plot of this book was quite predictable, especially if you’ve read a lot of contemporary novels. It was a classic “goody-two-shoes who wants to be interesting befriends troubled girl and does stupid things until something significant happens to her” plot. It felt like something that I’ve read many times before and it just didn’t seem fresh. There also wasn’t as much character development as I would have liked, for such a story. The resolution of the book was more about Suzanne than it was about Caddy, and I was just kind of disappointed with that. There were some good friendship elements in the novel but it was just far too dramatic at times for me to handle. I liked that the author explored the negative aspects of friendship but a lot of what I saw in the book was the three girls being mean to each other and being jealous of the friendship between the other two girls. The friendships just weren’t very healthy, and while I do see what the author was trying to do, it could have been explored further.

The pace of the book overall was quite slow. It was a complete snooze for the first 200 pages and the remaining 100 pages featured Caddy being a complete idiot. She was pretty much helping Suzanne self-destruct, while doing the same thing to herself. She also felt no remorse at being caught doing things she wasn’t supposed to be doing. Basically, the book either made me bored or uncomfortable with what was happening.


I was disappointed with Beautiful Broken Things. The characters were dislikeable and the plot wasn’t very original. I felt no connection with the characters and couldn’t relate to any of their thoughts and actions. The book just needed more depth, in my opinion, and overall I just found it to be lacking.

Rating: 2 out of 5


Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing a review copy of the book!


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Jenna is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves to indulge in great books and great food. She is a doctor (of philosophy) and can usually be found fangirling about something, devouring delicious food, or taking a nap. You can find her on Twitter @readwithjenna and on Instagram @readingwithjenna.

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42 responses to “Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard Review: This book broke me and not in a good way

  1. Jade @ Bedtime Bookworm

    OH NO! but look at that gorgeous cover?? This definitely doesn't sound like a book I would like… Boo!

  2. Oh man – this book sounds terrible! I get what you mean with the whole "significant life event" plot line happening all over YA, and cue the mysterious character that turns up to "bring meaning" to the MC's life. Bleh. I would've thought that the characters would at least grow and learn and all that, but looks like this isn't the case either. I'm going to to steer clear of this book.

    Thank you so much for the honest review, Jenna!
    My recent post The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Henry

    • The storyline was definitely predictable but it's one that I don't mind too much if the characters are relatable and actually develop. But the characters in this novel were way too dislikable and the friendships in this book were so problematic. Ugh, I just need to cleanse my brain of this.

  3. Ugh, Caddy sounds like a self entitled cow. If you've had people in your life go through loss and illness, why would you wish that upon yourself? To build character? That's already rubbed me up the wrong way. I'm reading this one next, so wish me luck but already going into it with low expectations. Such a shame because the premise sounded exactly like a book I'd really love. Wonderful review Jenna, hopefully your next read is much, much better.
    My recent post Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

    • Ahh I saw a while ago that you ended up giving this 2 stars as well. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it more but I completely understand why you didn't. The characters in this book were just horrible! It just sent all the wrong messages and I hope young readers don't get the idea that they need something to experience something terrible to be interesting.

  4. I have a really hard time with unlikeable narrators, even if they are purposely supposed to be unlikeable so I'm not sure this would be for me, it sounds really frustrating! And a predictable plot isn't any fun either 🙁

    • I'm actually not sure that they were supposed to be dislikable. It's hard to tell what the author was trying to do with these characters… but they definitely did not work for me. The cover is really the only positive I have with this one.

    But anyway, I am not about that idiotic character life. All three girls legit seem like people I would steer away from if I knew them from school or something LOL. Wanting a SLE makes me so mad still >:( Why can't your SLE be getting into the college of your dreams or something?!? Instead of something with a negative connotation. I just – ugh. Contemporaries like these are why I tend to steer away from the genre.

    • SLEs are so stupid! This book was just problematic from the start. I should've just DNFed it after all the SLE bullshit. Don't worry, Aila! There are many wonderful contemporaries out there for you to discover (and for me to throw at you).

  6. Aww…I'm sorry you felt that way Jenna. 🙁 It's so hard to enjoy a book – especially a contemporary book – when you can't connect to the characters. Thanks for sharing your thoughts though and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    • Yeah, it was pretty tough to get through this one but, luckily, it was a pretty quick read. I wanted to DNF pretty early on but I ended up flying through it so I pushed through.

    • Yeah, I definitely couldn't relate to anything that happened in this book. I can't imagine doing anything like what the characters did when I was a teen, so I guess I just didn't understand where they were coming from at all. Still, I don't think it was the most healthy set of messages to be sending out to teens.

  7. alicelionel19

    That's too bad that you didn't really enjoy this book. I would definitely understand why you didn't though; cliché contemporary plots do sometimes turn me off. Lovely review though!
    My recent post 25 Bookish Facts About Me

    • The combination of the predictable plot and the dislikable (and stupid) characters just did not work for me here. There was nothing redeemable about this book, unfortunately.

  8. Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy this book. I read a lot of contemporary too, and often I can predict the plot. But the execution matters. There are books with tropes that not unique, but the author still manages to make a great story. Sorry to hear this wasn’t such a story. Great honest review, Jenna!
    My recent post Audiobook Review: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

    • I don't mind predictable plots too much if the other elements are done super well. The combination of the predictable plot with the super dislikeable characters just killed this book for me. I've moved on to better things thankfully!

    • I had heard some pretty good things about it, which was what made me want to read it… but it was a bit of a flop unfortunately.

  9. Yikes. It is hard to enjoy a book when you dislike the characters so much. I tend to actually like unlikable characters, but only when they aren't done in an annoying way.

    • I don't usually deal very well with dislikable characters but I can kind of overlook it if I can understand where they're coming from. I couldn't with this book and the whole reading experience was just crap because I didn't care what happened to the MC.

    • I was pretty intrigued when I read the blurb because it sounded like a really good coming of age story, but it all started to go downhill pretty quickly. The characters are dislikable from the very start and it just never got better. Time to erase this one from my mind!

    • The combination of dislikeable characters and a lacklustre plot just ruined any possibility of an enjoyable reading experience.

  10. Oh yikes! This one definitely sounds like one to skip… The characters don't seem likable at all, and I really hate when author's try to play up an uninteresting mystery that no one actually cares about…. I still can't get over the fact that she wants an "experience" like being bipolar or losing a sister. That's not an experience you aspire to have… :0 It's so hard to like a book when you don't like the characters and it's immensely harder when the plot is predictable! So sorry this one was rough for you. Great review!

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books
    My recent post APCB Adds #3

    • This novel was just a combination of everything I don't like to read about in YA. I don't like reading about dislikable characters but sometimes I can forgive the characterisation if I know where they're coming from. But the characters in this book… I just couldn't put myself in their shoes. Like you said, why would you want to experience a tragedy?! And to go around looking for trouble… UGH. Just no.

  11. It's a shame really that the story doesn't live up to your expectations, especially with that really beautiful cover! The characters sound really annoying and immature :/ From your first description of Caddy, I know I won't like her. Losing someone and having bipolar doesn't mean your life is going to be interesting, in fact it might seem like the world is ending for them. It's weird really about her way of thinking…
    My recent post IT'S TIME.

    • I almost DNFed the book when she first started complaining about how boring her life was and going on and on about wanting to have a Significant Life Event. It's kind of a problematic message to be sending out to young readers. You don't need to have a mental illness or experience death in the family in order to be an interesting person (and I don't know who would actually want that to happen to them). This book just really wasn't for me.

    • Yeaaahhh…Caddy just didn't do it for me. I pretty much disliked her from the very beginning and she never managed to redeem herself. And since this was a really character-driven story, the book just flopped for me.

  12. Angel @Angel Reads

    I have had my eye on this book for quite a while, but lately I have been seeing reviews that mention just that I know would annoy me to no end. Thinking I might give it a miss.

    Thanks for the post
    My recent post Discussion: Same World Authors

    • I would definitely skip this one… I wish I could go back and unread it or erase it from my brain. The characters were just so problematic and STUPID. Like boohoo my life is too good and my parents are too rich. *shakes head*

  13. Oh man, the characters here sound like a worry and especially with Caddy's obsession with a Significant Life Event, that sounds like she's just asking for drama. I can't believe she would want to physically want that amount of pain, like she can't just be happy with her life as it is? Thanks for the review Jenna! At least the cover is pretty lol

    • The cover is A+ but that was all that was good about it. I still can't get over how stupid the MC was. Also she had a really stupid name like Cadnum or something. The whole time I was thinking… is that some weird blend of Cadbury and Magnum?…

  14. corrallingbooks

    I'm always okay with predictable plots…but with unlikeable characters? That's always a turn off for me :/
    Thanks for letting me know about this one, Jenna 🙂

    • Predictable plots AND unlikeable characters are just… death. I could maybe deal with one if the other is amazing but when both aspects are terrible… *shaking my head*

  15. Bieke (Nelly B.)

    Ahhh this is so disappointing! I can handle a predictable & unoriginal plot if the characters are great, but these were not. So I don't think I'd have a good time reading this at all.

    • Yeah I absolutely hated the characters. There was just nothing redeeming about them and I ended up feeling so detached from everything because I didn't care what happened to them.

  16. Ahhh, I agree! I was super frustrated with it, tbh. I mean, in a way it was realistic? I have totally met teenage girls who behaved like each of these three…but it's kind of awful to read about, right?! When I read, I want to enjoy the story and root for the characters. I just wanted Caddy to DEVELOP A BRAIN MAYBE OMG. And plus when a narrator TELLS US she's super boring, then of course we will believe her and be bored with the story right!??!?? *facepalm*

    • Right?! I was like… thanks for telling us that you're super boring because now I totally think you are. And it sucked that when she stopped being boring, she started being really stupid instead. Like you said, I just wanted to be able to get behind her and root for her but she was just way too boring and stupid for me to even care.

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