Review: Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Breaking Beautiful
By Jennifer Shaw Wolf
354 Pages
Published by Walker Childrens

Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a horrible car accident—including her memory of the event. As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember because doing so means delving into what she’s kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship.
When the police reopen the investigation, it casts suspicion on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around town. Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free? Debut writer Jennifer Shaw Wolf takes readers on an emotional ride through the murky waters of love, shame, and, ultimately, forgiveness.

**Book obtained via Netgalley – a huge thank you to Bloomsbury Children’s Books!**

So I confess to being totally wrong, wrong, wrong about contemporary YA. I didn’t think it was my cup of tea at all, but as it turns out I just wasn’t reading the right contemporary YA. I held out way too long, because I have really been reading some winners lately. Breaking Beautiful definitely falls into that category. I liked it a lot.

First of all, I liked that Allie is an older teen. It seems like most YA books have protagonists that are 15 or 16 and I know why, because that’s the target demographic, but when I happen across a book that has a protagonist that’s in his/her older teens or even early 20s I always do a small fist pump because I find them a little more easy to relate to.

Breaking Beautiful deals with several weighty topics, including bullying, but none more serious than that of domestic violence. It’s often an overlooked issue with teens. Trip is a terrible, terrible guy but he’s loved by everyone in town. Allie may have lost memories of the night he died, but she definitely remembers the abuse she endured by his hand leading up to his death. She continues to cover for him even at the expense of her own happiness and reputation, however, after he is gone. This is a decision that drove me crazy but isn’t uncommon among the abused. It seemed like her lies just spiraled and got her into more trouble and I kept hoping that she’d come clean about everything.

Unlike Trip, Blake is awesome. He’s a great friend to Allie even though she treats him very badly at times. He remains loyal to her throughout everything and I found that really endearing. I was less crazy about Allie and I felt really bad about not liking her so much because I think her questionable behavior was explainable, but I just didn’t connect with her. Fortunately I connected so strongly with Blake that it covered for pretty much everyone else.

I really think this was a strong debut novel for Jennifer Shaw Wolf and I look forward to reading more books by her in the future.

4.25/5 Stars


Leave a comment


  1. Your’s is the second positive review of this book I have seen recently. I understand about your hesitation with contemporary YA, I felt the same way until recently (only read paranormal types) but then I discovered some amazing writers (Megan McCafferty, Stephanie Perkins, and all those awesome Australian authors!) and now I find I am reading as much, if not more, contemporary as any other genre. Enjoyed your review Karen:)

    • I thought I wouldn’t be able to relate to contemporary YA because I’m kind of a grown-up. I’m finding that a good story is a good story though, regardless.

  2. I love, love contemp ya. If you can find the right story, nothing is better. Autumn told me I would love this. And now it has your seal of approval. This has moved onto my must-read list. Great review, Karen!

    • Yes, definitely give it a try! I’d love to know what you think of it. It was so twisty and turny, I really liked how it kept me guessing right up until the end. So good, I love it when books do that.

  3. Hey Karen! I just reviewed this book as well. I really liked it. I too loved Blake. I would’ve liked to have seen even more of him. I also loved her brother! He was a silent star in the book for me. 😉 Great review. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    • OMG, yes. Her brother totally stole the book IMO. I love it when disabled characters have big roles in books and aren’t just there to be able to say “hey, I have diverse characters”, kwim?


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