Thursday, January 15, 2015

Positively Worthwhile

Expected Publication:  March 3rd, 2015
Positively Beautiful
By: Wendy Mills
Bloomsbury USA Childrens
ISBN-13:  9781619633414

16-year-old Erin is a smart if slightly dorky teenager, her life taken up with her best friend Trina, her major crush on smoky-eyed, unattainable Michael, and fending off Faith, the vision of perfection who's somehow always had the knife in for Erin.  Her dad, a pilot, died when she was very young, but Erin and her mom are just fine on their own.

Then everything changes forever one day after school when Erin's mom announces she has breast cancer.  And then there's even worse news to come.  Horrified, Erin discovers that her grandmother's death from cancer is almost certainly linked, the common denominator a rare gene mutation that makes cancer almost inevitable.  And if two generations of women in the family had this mutation, what does that mean for Erin?  The chances she's inherited it are frighteningly high.  Would it be better to know now and have preemptive surgery or spend as much life as she has left in blissful ignorance?

As Erin grapples with her terrible dilemma, her life starts to spiral downwards, alleviated only by the flying lessons she starts taking with grumpy Stew and his little yellow plane, Tweetie Bird.  Up in the sky, following in her dad's footsteps, Erin finds freedom chasing the horizon.  Down on the ground it's a different story, and facing betrayal from Trina, humiliation from Faith, and a world of disappointment with Michael, Erin knows she must discover the truth about herself.  Sure enough, she's positive for the gene that's slowly killing her mom.

Suddenly, Erin's life has turned into a nightmare, and the only person she can truly talk to is a girl called Ashley who she meets online.  But when, in a moment of madness, Erin flies away with Tweetie Pie to find her new friend, she finds herself on a journey that will take her not only through shock and despair -- but ultimately to a new understanding of the true meaning of beauty, meaning, and love.


       Why is it so much harder to write a review for a book you loved, than for one you hated?  All I know is that this one particularly resonated with me.  Erin is someone who just coasts through life, not wanting to take any risks.  Her Dad was a stunt pilot and died in a plane crash when she was little.  Ever since then, Erin has taken a page out of her overly cautious Mom's book, reveling in the status quo.  She thinks life is enough with her unacted-upon crush on Michael, her close friendship with the loud/unique Trina, and the good relationship with her Mom.  Then Erin finds out that her Mom has breast cancer and that because of a gene mutation, she might eventually get it (or some other cancer) as well.  On top of this, after a couple quasi-dates with Michael (courtesy of Trina), mean girl Faith has started bullying her and turning the entire junior class against her.  The only thing keeping her going is her flying lessons and the online communication with her gene-positive friend Ashley.  When Erin finds out from an online genetic test that she's postive for the mutation, it's the last straw.   Erin goes on an unsanctioned journey to meet Ashley and get away from the harsh realities of her own life.  But will Erin find what she's looking for?  And will it be in the way that she wanted?
        Let me just get this out of the way: Erin is kind of a selfish brat for most of this book.  Yes, she has a lot to deal with and maybe I'm just too far into the adult perspective to understand a teenager's angst sympathetically anymore.  But the way she just disregards the individual situations of Chad, Trina, her Mom, and even Ashley, kind of got on my nerves.  Plus, the whole 'romance' with Michael was so childish and viewed through rose-colored glasses (at first, anyhow), that I couldn't help but roll my eyes.  He was such a douchebag, pretending that he was so deep when really he was just afraid to keep living.  And that's what this whole book comes down to, really.  How do you go on living when you don't know for sure how long you have left, or if a horrible disease will take you down?  Erin's relationship with Ashley (which was something unexpected), her closeness with her Mom, the possibility of a new romance, and the flying lessons are all things that have the power to take  her away from her self-pity.  Is it better to know if you have the mutation, or to live without knowing?  I won't say anything more to avoid spoiling the book, but I was on the verge of bawling at the end and I can't remember the last book that made me cry!  Overall, a beautiful and thought-provoking read that I'd recommend to adults and teens alike.

VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars

**I reviewed this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is March 3rd, 2015.**

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