The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk is another book I read for book club.
The Beauty That Remains is a novel that deals with grief from three distinct points of view. Shay is newly “twinless” after her sister’s death to cancer. Logan’s ex-boyfriend committed suicide. And Autumn best friend died suddenly in a car crash.
With grief and guilt at the forefront of their lives, each struggles to move on. Autumn sends emails that’ll never be read. Logan rewatches his ex’s YouTube Videos. And Shay struggles to keep her friendships and music blog afloat.
But a love of music connects them all. And one band may be the key to finding beauty in life again.
Let’s get into it…
Young people are often portrayed as unconcerned with death, so I think it’s good that we’re exploring it in YA. Each character’s grief has layers—they all share a sense of loss, but each of the three MCs has unique reactions and coping mechanisms.
Sasha’s grappling with her identity as “twinless” is especially touching and her anxiety issues complicate her ability to process her emotions. To further complicate matters, she’s also got to figure out how her music business will continue without her sister’s presence and whether or not to pursue a real relationship.
Autumn can’t let go of the guilt she feels for being with her friend’s brother the night her friend died and doesn’t know if she should pursue a relationship with him.
Logan also feels guilt. His relationship with Bram had already ended. But his last words to Bram, and the question of why Bram would end his life, haunt Logan.
The intersection of all these emotions makes this novel seem particularly true to the messiness of life.
In addition to appreciating the emotional exploration of this novel, I also appreciated the different formats and structures used to tell the story. Woodfolk writes Autumn’s chapters as messages to her now deceased friend and even includes auto-responses, which act as a haunting reminder of her friend’s absence. Sasha’s chapters often include blog posts in the form of music reviews. And Logan’s chapters often include YouTube video titles and comments. Since I “read” this novel as an audiobook, I feel like I lost out on some of this formatting. Still, I think it shows a true reflection of the way young people interact with one another these days. I’m enjoying authors’ attempts to capture these different formats in writing.
I also like the way that the narratives connect through a single shared experience. They all had connections to a broken up band and it was interesting to see the pieces eventually fall together. While I don’t really follow indie music that much, a book club friend told me that the scenes showing gigs and club events are true to life. So if you’re into that scene, you might appreciate this novel.
Despite all it has to offer, this novel didn’t keep me super captivated. It’s a quieter YA book that focusses more on internal struggle rather than action, and I’ve been more into action and interpersonal conflict in my entertainment of late. Still, I think it’s a valuable novel about the many faces of grief and I think it may be comforting to those experiencing similar struggles with grief.
Final thoughts: The Beauty That Remains is a detailed exploration of grief and the complicated emotions that go with it. I would recommend it to fans of quieter YA and music buffs.