Received from the publisher
From the BLURB:
It only takes a few blood-stained seconds for Tessa’s life to change forever. Her brother is gone and now she wants her old life back. She wants her mum and dad the way they were. She wants her brother.
If it wasn’t for Ned, she’d be all alone. He’s her greatest support and her staunchest ally, privy to her deepest secrets. Ned is like her other half, and he has the answer. If Tessa can just be perfect, life will get better.
The perfect daughter, the perfect marks, the perfect body.
But there’s a fine line between being in control and being controlled.
‘Beautiful Monster’ starts with a tragedy. Tessa’s little brother, Brodie, is killed in a hit-and-run while walking home from school. Tessa’s life is changed forever.
Two years since Brodie’s death and Tessa’s mother still medicates her pain away. Tessa’s father continues to put on an act of joviality. And Tessa, now 15, is slowly learning that time does not heal all wounds and nothing will ever be ‘fine’ again.
Tessa tries to maintain normalcy – she tries to get good grades, but is a solid B-student. She tries to excel in sport, but her rowing team has yet to win a Regatta. She tries to live around her mother’s depression, but her patience is wearing thin;
“Why do you blame her so much?” He seems pensive.
“Because it’s like she doesn’t have to be crazy,” Tess says. “She can turn it off and on. Like she does the love and affection. It depends on how she feels. Our family revolves around her mood swings. And frankly I don’t buy it anymore. She’s a fake.”
The only sticking point in Tessa’s life is Ned. Ned, who she loves. Ned, who tells her the truth and doesn’t spare her feelings. Ned who understands Tessa’s desperate bid for perfection and helps her achieve it, whatever the cost;
She hears Ned whisper, “The reason you’re so unlovable is that you eat too much, Tess. Your life will be wonderful if you lose a couple of kilos. That’s all it takes. Two kilos will make you happy. Down to 45 – it’s your number, kiddo. Go for it. Everyone will love you. Life will be perfect.”
She turns to face the mirror. Down to 45 kilos. That’s all she needs to do.
But Ned has a dark side. He is not what he seems and certainly not what Tessa needs….
‘Beautiful Monster’ is a very apt title for the issues McAffrey explores. As the story progresses, Tessa’s self-loathing spirals into an eating disorder and a distorted view of her body. What she hates most about her mother’s madness is what Tessa cannot see manifesting in herself.
‘Beautiful Monster’ takes readers on a psychological journey through the aftermath of grief and the beginnings of insanity. McAffrey has written a captivating character in Tessa – readers will be at once fascinated and horrified to read the deepening cracks in her psyche, but also desperate for her to survive the damage she does to herself.
At times it did feel as though ‘Beautiful Monster’ was too self-conscious. There’s definitely a message in the novel, and a lesson to be learnt from Tessa’s experiences. Admittedly, it’s a tall order to not shove a moralistic message down reader’s throats, but still give them something to gain from the text. But at the end of the day, McAffrey is writing some very sensitive issues and she explores them with equal parts finesse and suspense.
This book will appeal to adults and young adults alike for it’s twisted plot, layered messages and broken characters. Wonderful.