Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: Positively Beautiful by Wendy Mills

Book Title: Positively Beautiful
Author: Wendy Mills
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's
Published Date: March 3rd, 2015
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Jodi Picoult for teens meets Lurlene McDaniel. Beautiful written, beautifully moving, a vivid contemporary story of a girl’s unusual but terrible dilemma - and the love story that springs from it. 

16-year-old Erin is a smart if slightly dorky teenager, her life taken up with her best friend Trina, her major crush on smoky-eyed, unattainable Michael, and fending off Faith, the vision of perfection who’s somehow always had the knife in for Erin. Her dad, a pilot, died when she was very young, but Erin and her mom are just fine on their own.

Then everything changes forever one day after school when Erin’s mom announces she has breast cancer. And there’s even worse news to come. Horrified, Erin discovers that her grandmother’s death from cancer is almost certainly linked, the common denominator a rare gene mutation that makes cancer almost inevitable. And if two generations of women in the family had this mutation, what does that mean for Erin? The chances she’s inherited it are frighteningly high. Would it be better to know now and have major preemptive surgery or spend as much life as she has left in blissful ignorance?

As Erin grapples with her terrible dilemma, her life starts to spiral downwards, alleviated only by the flying lessons she starts taking with grumpy Stew and his little yellow plane, Tweetie Bird. Up in the sky, following in her dad’s footsteps, Erin finds freedom chasing the horizon. Down on the ground it’s a different story, and facing betrayal from Trina, humiliation from Faith, and a world of disappointment with Michael, Erin knows she must discover the truth about herself. Sure enough, she’s positive for the gene that’s slowly killing her mom.

Suddenly, Erin’s life has turned into a nightmare, and the only person she can truly talk to is a girl called Ashley who she meets online. But when, in a moment of madness, Erin flies away with Tweetie Pie to find her new friend, she finds herself on a journey that will take her through not only shock and despair - but ultimately to a new understanding of the true meaning of beauty, meaning, and love.

 Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Bloomsbury Children's in exchange for my honest review.

If something is pitched to me as YA Jodi Picoult & Lurlene McDaniel, chances are really, really high that I'll fall in love with the book, cradle the book in my arms and cry violently in the end. I initially credited Bloomsbury with the pitch, but then realized it was Goodreads that had said this. Well done Goodreads, well done.

This book was utterly beautiful, gorgeous, heartbreaking and hopeful all at once. I read it one night when I couldn't fall asleep and I did not put it down until I had finished it (sometime after 3:30am) It's a rare book that can keep me up almost all night, but this one did just that and it was done beautifully. 

I spent a big chunk of the book wanting to hug Erin. She was going through so much and the thought of me ever having to go through it with my own mother, was something I never wanted to think about. Like Erin and her mom, my own mother and I are extremely close and I couldn't imagine having to watch my mom go through chemo. I'd like to think I'd be as strong as Erin was, but I don't know.

I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the flying bits. I was worried I'd be bored, but I wasn't. I understood Erin's longing to share something with her dad. I understood her mother's reluctance given the circumstances, but Erin needed something that she shared with her deceased father. I've always wished I shared something with my father. Maybe I do, I doubt I'll ever find out. I was happy to see Erin embracing this part of her father, and Stew was great. He was a crotchety old man, but he cared about Erin in a non-creepy, almost fatherly way.

I wasn't all that fond of Michael, so I was hoping it wouldn't go anywhere. Michael was not who Erin needed. She needed someone solid, kind and generous. Like Jason. I didn't expect to like Jason much, but he grew on me slowly but surely. They made more sense together than Michael and Erin ever did.

I was of two minds when she flew off to meet her friend: I understood that she needed to get away from everything that was going on. Erin really did need a break from having to see her mom so sick from the treatments. Yet, I knew I could never have done what she did. Not if my mom was that sick. I could never leave her alone to deal with this no matter how scared I was. I was pretty peeved at Erin for making her mom worry during this time. Her mom should have been focused on her own health, and instead, Erin was acting like a six year old who ran away instead of dealing with things, which of course upset her mom.

The strongest part of the book was Erin's relationship with her mom. It was wonderful to see a teenager get along so well with their mom. The last 50 or so pages pretty much shattered every single feeling I've ever had. I actually took pictures of myself after I finished the book. I don't think a book has ever made me cry as much as this one did.

I loved this book, and I am giving it 5 stars. It is beautiful, it features a strong mother/daughter dynamic and it will break your heart into a thousand teeny tiny pieces. I cannot wait to get a finished copy of this beautiful book. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is not scared off by a "cancer book"


  1. I saw you tweet how amazing this book was, and I'm glad I've had the chance to read your thoughts on it! This definitely seems like the heart-wrencher, and strong bonds between mother and daughter are killer. I'm glad Wendy did an astonishing job with this relationship. I'm considering requesting it on NG, but I think I'll wait a little longer. :) Awesome review, Alexia!

  2. I loved this review! (Okay, not surprising as I wrote the book.) But I can't express how it feels when a reader connects to my story in this way. I'm so glad you liked it, Alexia. And even as many times as I went over Positively Beautiful during the editing process, I still cried at the end. *imagine Wendy trying to fix a typo or a misplaced comma as she sobs and laughs at herself for being ridiculous*


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