Mira and Francesca Cillo—beautiful, overprotected, odd—seemed untouchable. But Ben touched seven parts of Mira: her palm, hair, chest, cheek, lips, throat, and heart. After the sisters drown themselves in the quarry lake, a post-mortem letter from Mira sends Ben on a quest to find notes in the seven places where they touched. Note by note, Ben discovers the mystical secret at the heart of Mira and Francesca’s world, and that some things are better left untouched.
*An ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*
It felt a little strange giving Beautiful Broken Girls a lonely star (and a half, to make me feel a little less guilty) it’s something so rare for me, I think I’ve only given 2 other books 1 star. Ever. Unfortunately, for this one I’ll have to be honest and say it was a complete waste of time and I have no idea how I finished it. Let me tell y’all something, I came into this book excited as hell, ready for one thrilling adventure. I expected dark and disturbing, what I got was unnaturally tame and boring.
Beautiful Broken Girls is primarily about the mysterious Cillo sisters, Mira and Francesca, who have drowned in a quarry pool cliff. The story is told in the perspective of Ben, the Cillos’ neighbor, who had an on-again-off-again secret love affair with Mira, and is now left to investigate the sisters’ story through notes left by Mira in the places where Ben touched Mira. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? That’s what I believed too, before I came to the realization that I was being CONNED.
The writing is lyrical and even beautiful at times, but for the most part, it was convoluted and unnecessarily detailed. It was a major hurdle for me throughout because there was hardly any dialogue, most of it was description bordering on purple prose. Bland, tasteless commentary on random things and characters in the story lead to nothing actually happening. Most of the book consists of Ben riding around on a bike, punching his friends, and creepily lusting after a dead girl, things that do not exemplify the girls’ presence, or the mystery and twisted nature of their death and legacy. There are many thriller/mysteries that exempt themselves from humor or a lightheartedness that I usually enjoy, but these books are excellent in their writing, character depth, and story. The Walls Around Us and All The Rage are also darker books with a very serious tones, but they are never boring. The emotional, raw, and uncensored story-telling is what makes them so engrossing. Beautiful Broken Girls has a lot of interesting concepts, while diving in we are introduced to Catholic undertones and a Virgin Suicides-type mystery, but because of the detached, confusing writing, we never get to see the success of these ideas.
There are two sides to this book — Ben’s perspective and the individual sisters’ perspective, told in flashbacks. Ben’s narration is reminiscent of Clayton in Thirteen Reasons Why, which is not a good thing. While Ben’s trauma and hurt is somewhat expanded on, it is not enough to make me feel sympathetic toward him and his pain. His character writing was solely based on his slightly unhealthy obsession with Mira and all the angst that comes with it. I liked the idea of a forbidden, secretive romance but Ben’s attitude just ruined it for me. His narration otherwise was extremely stale and lacking in any sort of character. There were a few flashes of personality, when he’s angry and traumatized and determined, but other than that, his point-of-view was insignificant.
The Cillo sisters were somewhat interesting to me, but I ended up severely disliking them after their… very questionable actions toward the end. They are fairly easy to dislike, barely any personality was uncovered, in fact, it mostly consisted of the words “attractive”, “mysterious”, “pure”, and most dangerous of them all, “religious”. My god, they were religious. They are religious and strange to point of driving you insane, and I would have been okay with this if they were well-written characters. I would say this for their story-line as well, a ton of magical realism and religion was involved, and I wanted it to be executed well. Unfortunately for Beautiful Broken Girls, the presentation was all too tame and lazy, I couldn’t focus on it.
Another few points I wanted to touch upon were the exclusion of key details that could have lead to plot or character development. Whatever happened to Mr. Falso’s storyline? What about Ben’s original allegations of the Mr. Cillo abusing his daughters? In the beginning it is stated that Ben was molested by a baseball coach when younger, why was this only brought up vaguely throughout the book and not used to create deeper themes in the storyline? There are so many random events just flying around that are hardly expanded on, these could have been used to propel the plot or development in character. So much wasted potential.
To wrap things up, Beautiful Broken Girls failed to send a message, or make any sort of impact. I would say to pass on this one if you were expecting it to excel in character development or formulate a stimulating plot.