Review: What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson

Disclaimer: I was given an advanced readers copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange of an honest review


To understand the truth, you have to start at the beginning.

Winter in Idaho. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.Living in harsh poverty, Jack Dahl is holding his breath. He and his younger brother have nothing–except each other. And now Jack faces a stark choice: lose his brother to foster care or find the drug money that sent his father to prison.

He chooses the money.

Ava Bardem lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father, a merciless man, has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one. Now Victor Bardem is stalking the same money as Jack. When he picks up on Jack’s trail, Ava must make her own wrenching choice: remain silent or speak, and help the brothers survive.

Choices. They come at a price.

My thoughts:

Cory Anderson’s debut, What Beauty There is, is a heart-wrenching, enthralling and gritty thriller readers won’t forget in a hurry.

Jack Dahl, has been dealt the worst hand in life. After discovering his mother’s dead body, and with a father in prison, he has to do his best to take care of his younger brother Matty.

Jack has to deal with a lot of hardships in his life but is such a mature and caring character. His bond with his brother was really sincere. I really liked the way Jack cared for Matty, especially when he would help him with school work and also by not showing him any of their financial struggles.

Anderson shows the reality of the world by giving a glance at how society can judge someone based on their parents’ actions. For example, Jack looks everywhere for a job as they have no money to live but as soon as his connection to his father is revealed, people lose trust in him. It’s a really sad reality and an important topic about societal prejudices.

Even though this book is aimed at young adults, I would say it’s written more toward older teenagers and adults as there are a lot of topics throughout that can be quite graphic. There are a few trigger warnings for this book, including violence, suicide, addiction and abuse. All the difficult topics were written with a lot of care and it was nice to read a novel that didn’t have a lot of stereotypes surrounding these issues.

Ava’s character was really intriguing, appearing to be a loner but probably comes across as more of a protective figure as the story progresses. I thought it was really clever and unique how Ava was written into the novel, showing her perspective at the start of each chapter. I would have loved to have seen more scenes between Jack and Ava but really enjoyed her part in the story nonetheless.

I was fully invested in the story from the very beginning but was drawn in even deeper as more was revealed about each character as the story unfolded. There were the odd scenes where the story did slow in pace, but that didn’t last long. This is one of those books that is possible to read in one sitting because it’s so engrossing. The writing is to the point but still the prose are beautiful and powerful to read.

This is such an emotionally impactful novel that will leave every reader wanting more and has made me excited to see what else this author has to offer.

Rating: 4/5

What are some of your favourite YA thrillers? If you want more bookish content then you can also find me on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest – @bookwormgirl_24

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