Ingrid's big passion is music and she's been offered a place at a prestigious college in England. There is only one problem: she promised her mum to go to a wilderness summer camp before she's allowed to go to her dream school as she needs to show that she has the perseverance and strength to take such a big step. Ingrid agrees, she's willing to do anything to make her dream a reality, but when she arrives at the camp – or lack thereof – it isn't what she expected at all. Rather than cute cabins and organised games, the trip her mum signed her up for is a brutal hike without any amenities where the campers have to set up their own tents at night and battle the elements.
Not only that, but all the other teenagers in the group seem far more troubled than Ingrid. From a teen mum wanting to get strong to take care of her baby to an ex-con, Ingrid feels out of place and cheated. What is she really doing there? Why did her mum set her up to fail? As the weeks go by, the trip turns into a brutal yet enlightening self-discovery journey not only for the other campers but for Ingrid too. Along the way, as she writes letters to her mum in a notebook, as a reader you get to know all the campers, especially Ingrid, in a very honest and intimate way.
Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined is a heartbreaking yet inspirational tale of self-discovery, mental health and perseverance. The initially frustrated, angry and confused Ingrid seemed painfully out of place, because she was completely unprepared for the life-changing trip ahead of her. Yet despite this initial setback, she slowly but surely started to fit into the wilderness surroundings and the other misfits in the group as she grew stronger and more confident, surprising herself most of all with her growth over the course of the weeks. This journey was such a fascinating one and told with such perfect pacing, that it immediately grips the reader in its clutches.
Through flashbacks and the letters to her mum, we get to know Ingrid from a very young age and see her going through some immense hardships that have made her who she is today. Quite a bit of it was unexpected, making this book a constant discovery, and in hindsight it made complete sense as these parts of her life fitted as missing puzzle pieces into the person she came to be. The revelations along the way were carefully paced and were so very clever. And on a personal note, I was also very pleased to be reading a novel by a Canadian author set in Canada as it's one of my most favourite places in the world. Having lived in both key locations mentioned in the book made it even easier for me to connect to the story and characters, though the engaging writing did most of that hard work.
I didn't expect to be so gripped and emotionally invested in Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined as I was by the end of it, but the slowly revealed backstory and constantly engaging developments in the present timeline had me completely hooked. Author Danielle Younge-Ullman knew what she was doing – and it broke me. From its eye-catching cover to its hopeful final page, this novel is a true beauty inside and out.
Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined is published by Scholastic and you can get your copy from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.
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