June and Delia used to be best friends. Then June started dating Ryan and everything with Delia changed. They haven’t spoken in about a year.
This does nothing to lessen June’s heartbreak when she hears of Delia’s death. People are saying it was suicide.
June doesn’t believe it. She knows that Delia was murdered. Now she just has to prove it.
Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls, by Lynn Weingarten is 339 pages of pure crazy. What I can’t decide is whether or not it was the good kind.
The story is split between present events and flashbacks of June and Delia’s friendship. Delia is not a normal girl. She is the ethereal type who dances into your world and changes everything for the better. For June, with her alcoholic mother and unsatisfactory social life, this was awesome. For me, with my current reading frustrations and lack of patience for this particular character trope, not so much.
Despite this, the mystery surrounding Delia’s death is intriguing. She had an abusive stepfather, an increasingly psycho boyfriend (think Will in Jessica Jones – crazy, to kind of nice, to a real fucking bad situation) and a drug dealer with a grudge against her. The number of people who might have done Delia in just keeps going up. June starts to feel like she’s losing it when her own boyfriend, Ryan, suddenly enters the circle of suspicion.
So far so good, right? I guess. I would probably have been more invested in finding Delia’s murderer if every flashback containing her didn’t prove her to be so unbearable. June, I didn’t have any strong feelings about. She seemed to be very much a spectator in her own life. The impression I had is that searching for Delia was the first proactive move she had ever made. It’s understandable – with her mother’s addiction dominating her childhood it made sense that as a young woman she would seek a life without drama. Still, it was frustrating watching June subjugate herself to everyone in her life, first her mother, then Delia, and once she got involved with him, boring, unattractive, bunny-loving Ryan. I wouldn’t say my lukewarm feelings toward June really affected my reading experience, however. I can deal with characters that I don’t fully understand much more than those I find myself kind of getting why someone might have murdered.
Isn’t it strange how you can read a book and feel okay about it, then realise after you’ve finished that you maybe sort of hated it? Does anyone else experience this?
This part of my review is going to contain MAJOR SPOILERS. I wasn’t going to include these thoughts but the more I consider the book the more certain aspects upset me.
I need to get it all off my chest, you know?
I will attempt to spoil as little as possible.
So, certain parts of the book are written from Delia’s perspective. After a quote from Delia early on in the book (when I still had hope and was trying to convince myself that Delia wasn’t the most irritating character I had read in months) when she says that ‘The messed-up thing is how so many people think your body is their business, especially if you’re a girl.’ I started gearing myself up for a novel that gave women agency over their own bodies.
As such, I was pretty disappointed when Delia spent half her air time going on about how beautiful June was and how every eye in the room was drawn to her – and June of course, didn’t know it and believed herself to be an ugly troll.
Yawn, eye roll, etc.
What I feel that this attitude teaches (and trust me, it was the least of June and Delia’s problems, but whatever) is that you’re only beautiful when someone says that you are. It’s saying that your only worth is in other people’s perception of you and it’s a lesson we only teach young women. It’s gross and particularly annoying in a book that has previously preached about your body being your business. A girl thinking that she’s attractive doesn’t make her a terrible person and I’m so over YA novels saying otherwise. I would love to read a YA protagonist get ready for a night out and telling herself that she looks fucking awesome. Because that’s what happens when you get older and learn how to do your hair.
Delia, in addition to being a pain in the ass, is a total creep. Her relationship with June is manipulative and abusive. While I wouldn’t say that Weingarten is by any means condoning her behaviour, I would have liked her to have been way more explicit in her writing that the way Delia treated June was not okay. Pretty much Delia and June’s entire relationship was Delia placing June in situations that made her uncomfortable, and forcing her, through either lying or manipulation, to do things that she didn’t want to do. That is called an abusive relationship. While June talks about feeling ‘not right’ and her separation from Delia ‘a relief’ she doesn’t get enough into what precisely was wrong with their relationship that made her relieved that Delia was gone.
Obsessively controlling another person does not constitute a loving relationship.
I wish YA authors would realise this.
The book ended before we had the chance to get into it.
My final issue – and by far the SPOILER-IEST concerns Delia’s stepfather. Delia tells June that he attempted to rape her. June believes her – she had no reason not to – and much of what happens at the end of the book is as a result of that attempted rape.
Then, in the last freaking chapter, Weingarten suddenly casts doubt over whether or not Delia’s stepfather attacked her at all.
AND THEN THE BOOK ENDS.
False allegations of sexual assault is an all too common storyline. Yes, it happens (in 2-8% of court cases) but the amount of false allegations of sexual assault are disproportionate to the amount of time we all spend worrying about it. If Delia’s stepfather did not in fact attempt to rape her, then the events of the entire novel were completely pointless. Delia would be reduced from little more than a manic pixie dream girl to a psychopath without a cause. And I’m just not into that.
I revise my initial opinion. Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls is the bad kind of crazy. It’s a weak story that reduces girls into those stereotypes we are all so sick of – the beautiful angel and the oversexed psycho.
I am so over that shit.