Title: My Beautiful Failure
Author: Janet Ruth Young
Genre/Audience: Contemporary, Young adult
Publication: Atheneum, 2012
Summary: Billy, a sophomore, has had a tough time of it lately. After watching his mentally ill father go seemingly crazy, then come back from the proverbial ledge, Billy’s decided that he’d like to do something to help others in similar situations. He begins volunteering at Listeners, a suicide hotline. Soon, he’s receiving regular calls from Jenney, a pained young woman with her own personal demons and heartaches. He gets closer to her than he should, and begins falling in love with her, sharing in their similar circumstances. Though he cares deeply about Jenney, nothing can stop her from spiraling out of control and into deeper despair. Billy loves both his father and Jenney tremendously, but wonders if his love is enough to save either of them.
My Thoughts: All in all, I liked this book. The concept and story line were fascinating and unique. I greatly admire Young, as she is unafraid to tackle the tough issues, as she did in this book, and in her previous book, which I also read and reviewed, The Babysitter Murders. I generally love books dealing with mental illness, as I have always been interested in psychology. With that in mind, I was really intrigued by this story, the suicide hotline, Jenney’s illness, and Billy’s dad’s illness as well. I liked and admired the relationship that Jenney and Billy created, all via telephone. They truly loved and cared for each other without ever having seen one another. I also liked Billy’s character a lot in general. He was level headed, wise, and compassionate, and seemingly the only one in his family that didn’t have blinders on when it came to his father and his mental illness.
All of this said, I did have some slight problems with the novel. While I felt it was a very fast and interesting read, I didn’t love it. I was thrown off a bit by the family dynamics. I didn’t get why Billy’s mother and sister were so resistant to Billy when he was certain his father was ill again. I also didn’t understand the relationship the family had with his little sister’s friend, who was constantly there, and was also berated by Billy’s father in one scene… yet her parents still allowed her to go back. So, some of this story was kind of bizarre. I also had a hard time connecting with any of the characters other than Billy, so I wasn’t entirely invested in the story emotionally, despite wanting to be. Perhaps I didn’t connect with Jenney well because we only see small glimpses of her via the phone conversations. I would have really liked seeing more from her viewpoint. The story was a bit slow to start too, but it really picked up momentum at the end, so if you decide to pick this book up, see it through to the end!
While there were a few things about this book that I didn’t particularly like, it was still worth the read. It’s definitely a good contemporary read for fans of YA that enjoy books that tackle tough issues and mental health.
My Rating: 3.5/5