Sub-genre: Contemporary, YA
Rating: 3 pints of blood
The cover is stark and beautiful, which actually kind of tells you something about the prose. The image tells me teen romance and not much more, which is a shame because the story is actually more complex than most of the YA romances I've been seeing lately. Objectively, though, this is a gorgeous cover and definitely something that would draw me in.
Last year, a chemical accident took Lucius's hands and destroyed part of their house. His family moved to try for a new start, but he knows they've never forgiven him, and he can't forgive himself. He chose hooks to replace his hands because they cost less, because he won't outgrow them so quickly, and because they more accurately reflect how he feels about himself. Going to a new school was supposed to help him get past the rumours at his old school about being crazy, a danger to himself and others, but the new kids start up with the same rumours on the bus ride on the first day of school. Kids and teachers alike give him a wide berth, as if his hooks were contagious, as if he had the power to hurt them.
Aurora's mother died last year, and her father has decided they needed a new place if they were going to move on. It's been hard, but they're coping as best they can. At least school is easy; everyone accepts her easily, the most popular kids going out of their way to make her one of them. The kid she's most intrigued by is Lucius, though, because in spite of the rumours that he's crazy, he strikes her as being the kind of friend she needs, strong and loyal. He keeps mostly to himself, though, and her popular friends don't like seeing him around. He makes them uncomfortable, and she can't understand why the fact he has hooks for hands bothers them so much. At least she can say hello in the hallways when she sees him.
I've heard Crazy Beautiful described as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it could work as such, but it goes deeper than that. It's a story about perception, the way you perceive yourself, the way you're perceived by others, and the influence one can have on the other. High school is a wonderful setting for this, and teens will relate to Lucius especially, with his firm belief that he's not actually good enough to be loved by everyone. He has nothing to offer people, so why should they like him?
Aurora borders on too to be true, but thankfully doesn't teeter over into annoying territory. She's pretty and effortlessly popular but never vain, smart and understands people and they way they work. She instinctively knows which kids she should avoid and which would make for good friends, but because she's still influenced by her peers, doesn't always follow that intuition. Which, of course, is pretty much what gives her a bit of complexity and saves her from growing too Mary Sue.
The book is first person narrative, alternating chapters between Lucius and Aurora's viewpoints. I really enjoyed hearing the same situation described from two different perspectives, especially because they came from such different places in spite of their shared status as "the new kid." On the other hand, it meant chapters would sometimes end abruptly and the opportunity to fill in that scene was lost when the viewpoint shifted. I wanted to hear more about what was going on. For example, what happened when Lucius returned home after having dinner out? I have no idea, because when the chapter shifts to Aurora's viewpoint, we have a time jump and never return to what could have been an important scene with his family. The ending is very sudden. I really wanted to hear more about how things resolved themselves; the problem had only begun to unravel, and several of the repercussions hadn't been dealt with before the last page. Granted, this might bother me more as an adult than it would the teens for whom the book is aimed at, but I likes me some full consequences.
This is a very short read, with just over 200 pages, some of the chapters consisting of a paragraph or less. I would have liked to see it fleshed out more, which is in its own way a compliment, since it translates to me wanting more.
Crazy Beautiful is available in trade paperback.