Book Review: Beautiful Girl

Beautiful Girl
Published By: The Studio
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Page Count: 251
Buy it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: New Adult - Contemporary, Mystery

Nicole is having trouble settling into her sophomore year at Dutchess College in upstate New York. Her summer was spent with her doctor trying to battle her demons. Nicole is not the easiest protagonist to support. There were many moments that I shook my head at her actions, but as her past bubbles to the surface, I understood her more. A darkness is wrapped around Nicole's psyche with its claws in so deep that she can't shake her skewed perceptions of herself and her reality.

Running becomes Nicole's new normal. She throws herself into it with everything she has and strives to push herself to the brink. Nicole is attracted to things that make her forget herself and her mistakes. As a result, she rarely does anything in moderation. Nicole's incessant need to prove herself permeated this story and it is what ultimately allowed me to feel more sympathy for her.

In addition to Nicole struggling with her personal demons, there is a darkness that shrouds this novel. The darkness is realistic and highlights some of the negative aspects of college life. The most difficult aspect of this novel for me was the slut shaming and the bullying, but Nicole's sense of self was also rough to read. Nicole did not deserve the treatment she receives nor does any female. While the subject matter was difficult for me at times, I feel like it is important for young women to understand that these sorts of actions are not warranted or valid. I also worry that so many will keep silent when horrible things are done like Nicole does. Hopefully her story will encourage others to speak up. 

My biggest complaint was Nicole. As I mentioned before, she is not an easy character to love. She has so many barriers between her and the reader. These barriers make sense later on in the story, but in the beginning of the novel I found myself struggling to understand her choices. For example, she is attacked walking home alone one night from a party, but a few chapters later she leaves a crowded nightclub to walk home alone at night once again. She's still reeling from her first encounter with violence so it didn't make sense to me that she would put herself in another vulnerable position so quickly.

In spite of the dark subject matter and the mystery/thriller aspects, there are some rays of positivity in this one as well. Certain characters represent the goodness that still exists in the world. In a time where so many bad things seem to happen on a daily basis, it is nice to be reminded that not everything and everyone in the world is a bleak spot. There is still joy to be experienced. There are still great loves to be had. I think in the end Lida James has created a story that will remind you of the beauty of hope and new beginnings.

One Last Gripe: I predicted some of the twists fairly easily.

Favorite Thing About This Book: The positive relationships

First Sentence: I've always wanted to be beautiful, but you can't force it - real beauty is when you don't have to try, it's just there.

Favorite Character: Henry

Least Favorite Character: Zach

Darkness has a way of catching up...

Sophomore year at Dutchess College has just begun, and Nicole is still haunted by memories of her first love, Zach. As the changing leaves fall on the stately Hudson Valley campus, she takes solace in running—pushing herself to go harder, faster, to be the best. With the wind blowing through her hair, she can almost convince herself that she is beautiful, that she will find love again.

So when Nico runs, quite literally, into the maddeningly elusive Justin, she’s convinced she’s found the guy to make her forget her ex—despite the warnings of her friends and her straight-edged running partner, Luke.

But when Nico is attacked in the woods after a wild night of partying, everything changes. Suddenly, Nico begins receiving anonymous threats, and she no longer knows where to turn for help—or whether even her close friends can be trusted.

All she wants is to be one of the beautiful girls—the ones who never have to chase perfection. But in order to uncover the truth, she’ll have to face a past she had hoped to leave behind forever. She thought she could outrun the darkness, but darkness has a way of catching up…and only one boy can save her.

About the Author

Lida James grew up in Brooklyn, New York and graduated cum laude from Vassar College with a BFA in English (and a lot of film credits, too). After working as a cameraperson on feature films in NYC she relocated to Los Angeles in search of mountains and waves. Once there, she wrote and sold screenplays (and snowboarded and windsurfed). She continues to enjoy living in Los Angeles with her husband and their two children—all shredders like herself—and two rescue dogs. Beautiful Girl is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter to learn more and for updates! photo © Amy Malloy