Kids do more and more creepy things at younger ages these days, including sexting and other sexual behaviors totally not appropriate for their age. There are a ton of books dealing with this very subject (in fact, I just bought one called Testimony a few days ago!); This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman is a look at what happens to one family’s life after their son, 15-year-old Jake receives a sexually explicit video from 13-year-old Daisy. Jake sends it to a friend, who sends it to a friend, and the rest is history.
Okay, maybe it’s me but are there any novels that take place in New York where the kids don’t sound like completely entitled brats? Because both Jake, his little sister Coco (who really was an unimportant addition to the plot), Jake’s friends, and Daisy herself seem even more Verunca Salt than most novels with teenage characters do. From the start, I didn’t like any of these kids, although I liked Jake briefly when he told Daisy she was too young — which prompted her to send the video.
I can’t even really gather my thoughts on this book except to say it felt lost and unfinished. When it was over, I thought, “This is seriously the end?” There comes a point where you have to realize that you cannot write a book that goes on forever, but this novel felt nowhere near that point. Much of what Schulman touches on his morality and how none of these characters — not Jake or his mother Liz or father Richard — really know what to feel about what is happening and that’s clear. I think that’s what gives the book that unfinished, sloppy feel. None of them know what the heck is going on, and they’re all trying to exist in separate worlds but none of it is making any sense. If there were some kind of message, this would be a good — or even great! — book. But even after thinking it through, any message just gets lost.
Overall Rating: 4/10