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Something Pretty, Something Beautiful

by Eric Barnes

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I received this book through a GoodReads giveaway. Thanks so much to those that made it possible.

This book absolutely floored me. The writing style is totally fresh, not only with the way the chapters were divided but in the storytelling as well. The characters in this novel felt painfully real resonated with me in an unprecedented way. The closest comparison I can draw is to Harmony Korine's films like Julien Donkey-Boy and Gummo. Although not a perfect connnexion, those films and this book offer you a disparate reality that somehow feels just as real, or more so, than your own.

As others have mentioned, the title of the book is somewhat ironical in juxtaposition with the events that transpire over the course of it. However, it is easy to find the beauty that exists not only in Barnes' prose but also in the intricacy and fragility of the characters in the story.

This is insanely powerful and ranks high among the bildungsromane that I've read. ( )
  crsini | Jan 13, 2015 |
I got up to page 52 of this book before I reached my "can't take this any longer" threshold, so I'm unable to reflect upon the storyline, but am more than happy to elaborate upon my DNF (did not finish) reasons below:

Something Pretty, Something Beautiful carefully details and juxtaposes the dark, wild antics of one group of friends's teenage years with the responsibility that comes with the adult world. Centered around the leader, Will Wilson, and the consequences that ripple out from childhood decisions, this book is descriptive but ambiguous, and reads like an extended vignette.

Stylistically, a novel-length vignette may sound attractive, but in this book, it's my biggest point of criticism. Eric Barnes tries terribly hard to sound poetic, but his sentence structure and word choices are off-key, and the pace of the storytelling is too sluggishly set. It took a lot of effort me to get just to page 52 (about one-fifths through) because I would find myself rereading certain sentences to try and process them.

The comprehensive effect is even worse; the awkward, choppy sentences paired with slow-moving scenes just make the book unreadable. What little I got out of the characters, I didn't like because they weren't very humanly portrayed—too flat, too uncertain—and the story was near impossible to follow because the mechanics of the writing just didn't keep my attention. The narrative and plot are constantly unclear, making it a confusing effort for me, which is why I eventually had to put it down.

Pros: Attractive cover and title

Cons: Even the synopsis is so incredibly vague that I don't know what the story is supposed to be about...?? // Writing style is superfluous and choppy // Poorly structured; setting, time, and perspective are never specified // Characters, or the narrator, for that matter, are superficially portrayed and hard to relate to // I couldn't even get through half of the book

Verdict: With ambitious attempts to be stylish in prose, but ending up more stylized and long-winded than anything, Something Pretty, Something Beautiful is a difficult, plodding novel I simply couldn't get into. It's pretty rare for me not to be able to finish a book, but the poor composition and uncertain storyline were too disorienting and floaty for me, and not in a good way (this is no Gabriel García Márquez, mind you). I tried hard to like Eric Barnes's sophomore novel because of its weighty, sinister undertone, but unfortunately gave up after 52 pages.

Rating: 1 out of 10 hearts (1 star): Could not finish and have nothing positive to say; use this book to see if your pens still have ink, and keep it far, far away from me.

Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, OutPost19 and TLC!). ( )
  stephanieloves | May 19, 2014 |
This is a gritty coming of age book, that pulls no punches with the content. My main problem with this book is that it changes the point of view with each chapter. You travel back and forth in time constenley. I think the book would be better served if the story were told in order. It took me awhile to get into the story, but I am glad I finished the book. The second half does flow better and I did enjoy the ending.

In Tacoma, a circle of friends finds their leader in Will Wilson. Together, they drink, they get high, they take girls to the woods-but Will Wilson keeps pushing toward darker extremes. As the descent gets steeper, there is a way out: another friend's fishing boat off the coast of Alaska. There is life after Tacoma. But the choice has to be made, and some friendships feel more than inevitable. SOMETHING PRETTY, SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL is the new novel from Eric Barnes, author of SHIMMER. ( )
  dixielandcountry.com | Sep 24, 2013 |
From The Book Wheel:

Thanks to TLC Book Tours I have stumbled upon another book that I enjoyed but wouldn’t have picked up on my own. Perhaps “enjoyed” isn’t the right word, though. Something Pretty Something Beautiful by Eric Barnes is not a fun and happy story and, to be honest, I had a hard time getting into it. The structure of the book is such that it was difficult to know what “time period” I was in, but once I figured out the basic plot it was much easier to follow.

Spanning several years, the book follows Brian Porter, a blue-collar kid from Tacoma. As is common with teenagers, Brian befriends a group of boys that drink, smoke, and get into trouble. Their ringleader, Will Wilson, is one of those kids that you know is trouble but can’t resist his magnetic pull.


Somewhat balancing out Will, however, is Kyle. One of Brian’s childhood best friends, Kyle exerts a more positive influence, but much like the cartoon devil and angel pulling you in different directions, Brian is caught between two versions of himself.

Something Pretty Something Beautiful delves below the surface of everyday life and into the minds and actions of teenage boys in a working class neighborhood where every family has their demons. A fascinatingly dark read, the author did a great job creating a three-dimensional world that I was transported to.

For the full review, click here. ( )
  thebookwheel | Jul 16, 2013 |
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