Beautiful: Truth’s Found When Beauty’s Lost, by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma. Thomas Nelson, 2009, 272 pages.
Reading Level: Young Adult, ages 12-15
Maturity Level: 5 (ages 12-14) and up
Bottom Line: Beautiful thoughtfully explores the effect of a disfiguring accident on an overachieving teen, but comes to no final conclusion about truth.
Ellie Summerfield is the iconic high-school good girl: overachieving, daytimer-driven, service-oriented, kind, smart–and beautiful. Until an accident scars her face. That happens on page 67 of a 272-page novel, so the rest is concerned with Ellie’s return to equilibrium. Will she graduate? Will she even go back to school? Will she emerge from this experience a better person, or sink into bitterness like her grandfather? We can already guess the answer to that last question, but the process is fairly realistic and well done. Ellie makes some unpleasant discoveries about herself, i.e., she’s not as pretty inside as out, and not very loving to the people who love her most. Her faith was a shaky structure that comes crashing down at the first serious challenge.
That opens the question of what kind of faith it was. She and her parents are churchgoers, but the ‘rents are never fleshed out and the youth pastor only makes brief appearances that don’t amount to much; no help there. The only real help comes from her peers, such as Megan, her slightly-older sister, and Will, the boy next door–both of whom are counter-cultural and rebellious enough to be challenging. But they’re not Christians, even though Megan is thinking more seriously about God toward the end. Then there’s Ellie’s boyfriend Ryan, who remains amazingly faithful, in spite of her breaking up with him. “You know what I figured out, Els? Everybody is disfigured in some way or other . . . in some people we see it immediately in their faces or bodies. But everyone has broken places. Just like everyone has beautiful places. You’ll use your scars and your beauty for the purpose God made you for.” This shows some inner strength, but we don’t get to see where it came from. I suspect Thomas Nelson is hoping for some crossover appeal for this novel, and it does raise interesting questions while leaving the reader to grapple with them. In a Christian novel, shouldn’t there be some mention of Christ? That might be another good discussion question.
Overall rating: 4 (out of 5)
- Worldview/morality value: 3.5
- Artistic value: 4
Categories: Realistic Fiction, Christian, Young Adult, Life Issues