Monday, December 3, 2012

Breaking Beautiful

Breaking Beautiful
Jennifer Shaw Wolf
ISBN: 978-0802723529
Walker & Co, 2012

Plot Summary: Allie is left battered and scared after the death of her boyfriend, Trip, in a horrible car accident. When his truck went off the side of a cliff, she somehow was flung out of the car to safety. She’s now in the hospital and gets to hear all of her friends and family members giving their deepest sympathies not only to her own injuries but to the death of her beloved boyfriend. However, she harbors a horrible secret that she can’t tell anyone. Everyone thinks she’s suffering from survivor’s guilt when, in fact, she can’t stand everyone making Trip out to be a hero for supposedly saving Allie’s life (they believe he pushed her out of the car before going over the cliff). See, Trip and Allie’s relationship wasn’t the glamorous couple everyone thought they were. In fact, she’s now to scared to speak the truth for fear that everyone will turn against her and say it’s her word against the word of the Golden Boy. During their two year relationship, Trip horribly beat her and she kept quiet about it. She knows something happened the night of the accident and thinks that the huge scar across her eye was not a result of the car accident but she can’t remember anything about what happened. It doesn’t help that she just wants to move on with her life and forget but Trip’s father is forcing the cops to reopen the case as foul play. Soon with friends who refuse to look at her because of her injuries, a best friend of Trip’s stalking her and making accusations, and an old friendship and romance with the town “bad” boy, Blake, resurfacing, both Allie and Blake start appearing as potential suspects. What is she to do?

Critical Evaluation: This is another traditional abusive relationship novel for teens. However, this one does have an intriguing twist. At the book’s opening, the abuser is dead and Allie, with her memories lost, is the victim left alive wondering if she had anything to do with Trip’s death. The story unfolds in a series of flashbacks to times when Trip was violent. Of course, in my opinion, the thing that lessons the reality and seriousness of the nature of abusive relationships is the constant author’s need to add in a new love interest for the abused girl. This comes in the form of Blake, her old best friend, who, because his mother had him out of wedlock and is poor, is seen as a bad influence and troublemaker. This need to add a new love interest is so unrealistic. Why can’t an author every just have a character focus on self-improvement and empowerment instead of having another boy come along to make everything better. Allie is a realistic character and in her rich, seaside village she is constantly on the outside which shows the bias of those who are more well off being stuck up to those they think are “below” them. The author also does a good job of entwining the mystery element of Trip’s accident? How did he actually go off the cliff? What really happened that night? Did Blake have anything to do with it? Was the intent of the accident much, much eviler than anyone could expect? Readers are left guessing until the surprising reveal at the end.

Reader's Annotation:  Allie’s boyfriend died heroically saving her life by pushing her out of his truck that was going over a cliff. Everyone thinks Allie is suffering from survivor’s guilt when in fact she is hiding a desperate secret—she’s happy. Trip, her could-never-do-wrong boyfriend, had been abusing her for two years. However, she is also scared that, because she can’t remember the details of what happened, she might have had something to do with the cause of the accident.

Author Information: Wolf grew up in the little town of St. Anthony, Idaho. She always wanted to be a writer and wrote her first book for her little brother, sewed the pages together and had one of her friends illustrate it. She went to Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) where she majored in Broadcast Communications. She was one of the founding DJs for a small campus radio station, KWBH. She, her husband, and four kids currently live in Lacey, Washington. Her second book, Shards of Glass, comes out in 2013 (Wolf, n.d.).

Genre: Realistic, Mystery

Curriculum Ties:  N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Read the scene of Allie  and Trip in the woods but stop before giving anything away.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  14+

Challenge Issues: Abusive, violent relationships

Challenge Defense:  If this book were challenged, I would make sure the library has a Challenge Defense File ready for such a situation. Inside the Challenge Defense File, librarians and the public could find:

·        A copy of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights. (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at
·        A copy of the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at
·        A copy of the library’s own selection policy (my library, the La Vista Public Library, has a policy but it is not online so I can’t link to it as an example).
·        A copy of the library’s citizen’s complaint/reconsideration form (my library, the La Vista Public Library’s, form is called the City of La Vista Service Request form).
·        Copies of reviews—both good and bad—from reputable library and publishing services to justify why a book was selected for inclusion in the collection. These include not only reviews from such journals as School Library Journal, VOYA, Horn Book, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist, but also any mention of books on YALSA lists and other copies of articles about any awards or nominations such books may have received.
·        Include a short rationale file for other coworkers so if the librarian in charge of selecting materials is not available when a challenge occurs the other staff members have some information to go by (the rational would include such information as a short summary, what could be challenged, reviews, awards and nominations, etc.)
·        Include for staff members a copy of “Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials,” a document written by the American Library Association. Make sure that staff reviews this document periodically so they are prepared and know how to face such situations. (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at

Reason for Inclusion:  An excellently written realistic fiction title with a new perspective on abusive relationship story. 


Wolf, J.S. (n.d.). About me. Retrieved from

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