• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson

Cory Anderson's debut is a story about darkness, desperation, unlikely loyalty, and, ultimately, brave young characters in tough spots trying to cobble together something close to hope.

In the young adult novel What Beauty There Is, Jack and his brother are painfully poor and living alone in rural Idaho. It's winter, it's cold, and it's tough to simply survive.


But if Jack can't find the drug money his father stole before heading to prison, things will get worse: his younger brother will be sent into foster care. There's no real choice to make--Jack would never allow his brother to go. So now he just needs to do some dangerous digging into matters that seem to generally end up sending others to jail...or resulting in death.

Meanwhile, nearby, Ava's been kept quiet and controlled by her father her whole life--and he's after the same money Jack so desperately needs. Ava must decide whether she'll stick by her cruel father or if she's willing to help the brothers save themselves.


No one can be trusted besides the younger brother sleeping at Jack's back, everyone else in his family has abandoned or betrayed him (or both), and the people who want to help him bring potentially deadly attention to his existence at the same time he desperately needs to remain unnoticed.


I had mixed feelings about the omniscient narrator's chapter openers. They offer useful information, but I tend to want a story to unfold without hints in certain directions (although I didn't predict the specifics of what occurred). This element made the book feel young adult to me more than anything else.


What Beauty There Is is a story about darkness, desperation, unlikely loyalty, and, ultimately, brave young characters in tough spots trying to cobble together something close to hope. The main protagonists are young, but their concerns are weighty. Anderson's beautifully spare writing about the brutal winter and the pressing crises of hunger, cold, and danger from nefarious forces kept me on the edge of my seat. The brothers' relationship was a heartbreaking joy to read. And I'm mesmerized by this gorgeous cover art.

I received a prepublication edition of this book (publication date is today, April 6) courtesy of Roaring Brook Press and NetGalley.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

This is Cory Anderson's debut. I love a brave-young-protagonist setup, and the brothers' love and determination were fantastic.


I can't wait to read what Anderson writes next.