Author: Wendy Mills
Published: March 3rd 2015 (Bloomsbury USA Childrens)
Genres/Themes: Young Adult, Contemporary, Death
Source: Netgalley via Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Disclaimer: Receiving a copy from the publiher does not affect my review.
Rating: Four Stars
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.
Cover Thoughts: I love this cover a lot. The sunset on the cover represents healing and life to me. I also featured this cover on a past Wondrous Covers Wednesday here.
First Line: Three reasons you don’t want a crystal ball:
Positively Beautiful was an interesting read for me. When I read it, I thought I already had my rating on lock for it, three stars. It was only after I finished and analyzed it, that I understood everything. That’s not to say Positively Beautiful is a difficult book to understand, only that my feelings for it changed when I finished.
Positively Beautiful is a journey. I didn’t like everything that occurred in the novel, but until I got to the end, I wasn’t sure where everything fit. Some things in the novel may seem out of place or unnecessary, but I think the ending really shows how necessary they really were.
Throughout Positively Beautiful, Erin goes through four different parts of her life and none of them really easy. Dealing with her mother having breast cancer caused Erin to make some irrational decisions, but I think they were necessary. Erin definitely grows throughout Positively Beautiful from the somewhat shy, bullied girl to the woman who is strong for her mother. Erin went through a lot and it was interesting to see how it affected her.
What I loved about Positively Beautiful are all of the relationships that are shown: Erin and Trina’s relationship, who would “Dorkster Twins Activate” when they were together, Erin and Michael’s vague relationship, the relationship Trina shares with her later significant other, Erin and Faith’s “hate” relationship and finally Erin and her mother’s relationship, the heart of the book.
When Positively Beautiful begins, we’re first shown Erin’s life before her mother’s diagnosis. She has her best friend, Trina, her mom and her crush, Michael. Erin’s your pretty standard teenager. After Erin’s mother’s diagnosis, her life falls apart. She has a falling out with Trina, her almost rivalry with Faith gets worse and she can’t exactly be there for her mother. She’s also dealing with the fear that she has a gene mutation that will make her more likely to get cancer. I liked how Erin constantly worried about whether or not she had the gene and how it would affect her. An interesting thing was how Erin was told that she shouldn’t even be tested for the gene until she was at least 21, but more likely not to even worry about it until she was 25. How do you not worry about a gene mutation that could kill you? I loved seeing Erin struggle with this. I hadn’t heard about BRCA gene before reading Positively Beautiful. I like that it gave me something to think about.
Erin turns to learning to fly like her father did when he was alive. I loved reading about how she took an interest in flying. I like how Erin used flying as a mental escape from what was going on with her life. It also helped her feel closer to her father who was dead and flew. Erin does make a few questionable decisions that I didn’t like at all. Fortunately though, they happened to really show the growth she was going through.
There’s a relationship plot in Positively Beautiful that was just so “A Walk To Remember” esque that I didn’t like particularly much.
I did love a lot of the conversations that occurred due to it though. I liked how it made Erin think of things differently. I also loved that it wasn’t the center of the story and it was a side plot.
Positively Beautiful was sad to read about, I felt bad for what Erin was going through. The relationship between Erin and her mom was nice to read about because the cancer was the center of everything. It affected how she lived her life and what decisions she made. I loved how much social media Erin used in Positively Beautiful. Erin went on support forums that were for people with the BRCA mutation. I like how she felt the desire to know whether or not she had it. I know if I had the chance of having a mutation like that, I would want to know no matter what. In the forum, Erin read about how some women had a mastectomy before ever being diagnosed with cancer to prevent it. The thought of having parts of your body removed before having cancer was just painful to read about. While on a forum for people with the BRCA mutation gene, Erin becomes friends with someone. I liked seeing how Erin turned to this person a lot when she dealt with everything.
I love seeing teenagers interact with social media a lot in fiction. If I were going through something, I would definitely turn to the internet for people going through similar situations. I love that Erin did that and she found help through them.
There were a few other things I didn’t like in Positively Beautiful. One was all of the drama that occurred, there was drama between Erin and Trina, Erin and Faith, Erin and her mom and Erin’s romantic relationships as well. On one hand, I do like the drama because everyone knows that things can always go from bad to worse and with Erin’s life, that was definitely true. Erin grew a lot throughout Positively Beautiful and I loved seeing that growth she had.
It took the entire reading of Positively Beautiful to really grasp how I felt about it. After I read it, I can say that I really enjoyed it, despite decisions Erin made. There were a lot of quotes throughout Positively Beautiful that I highlighted and stopped and said “Wow, that’s me, that explains my feelings toward something”. I love books that have quotes or conversations like them in them. I loved how Positively Beautiful really made me examine my own life.
I loved reading about how Erin dealt with the possibility of having the BRCA gene. It ran her life basically because she worried about if she had it and how it would affect her if she did have it. I wouldn’t call Positively Beautiful a super emotional read, but it was emotional because of everything Erin went through. I liked seeing how it affected her and her inner monologues she would have. Overall, I enjoyed Positively Beautiful and I feel it would only benefit from a re-read.
There is also an author’s note at the end of Positively Beautiful where Mills writes about her experience in doing research for BRCA. One thing I thought was interesting is how people were kind of against her having a teenager worry about being tested for the BRCA mutation, like Mills writes, you can’t tell someone to not worry about it or think about the possibility once it’s in your head. I would encourage everyone to read the author’s note.
~Do I Recommend?~
Fans of sad contemporary
Fans of emotional stories
People who like to read about characters and social media.
~Will I Re-Read It?~