Danielle Younge-Ullman a novelist, playwright and freelance writer who has always had a passion for books, language and storytelling. Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined is published by Scholastic and is Danielle’s second YA novel.
Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman
Ingrid doesn’t belong on a hard-core wilderness trek with a bunch of ‘at risk youth’. She only agreed to come so that her mother would let her attend her dream school. But as the group journeys further into the wilderness, the past becomes impossible to avoid. Maybe she does belong here after all.
Ingrid has always been her singing sensation mother’s number one fan. Margot-Sophia Lalonde was an opera singer on the brink of superstardom, when her career was halted abruptly and their lives fell apart. Ingrid has been picking up the pieces ever since; but maybe now it’s her turn to shine. With the realisation of her dreams on the horizon, Ingrid’s mother only agrees to let Ingrid complete her senior year in a school of her choice IF she goes on a trek through the wilderness. Ingrid finds herself in the middle of nowhere and very quickly realises it’s not what she expected. Instead of a beautiful tree-lined campsite, Ingrid finds herself wading knee deep in mud, trekking through waves of mosquitos and trying to avoid the searching questions of the camp counsellors. What was her mother thinking? How could she make her spend even one day in the company of such delinquents? She’s not the one with the problem…is she?
Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined is a great title, for an equally great story. With a bittersweet humour running throughout, it explores the experiences of a teenage girl who has had to face more than her fair share of troubles. The story is told through journal entry letters written from Ingrid to her mother, alongside a narrative focusing on the events that brought Ingrid to this point in her life. Ingrid’s experiences of adjusting from a nomadic upbringing and the consequent fallout resulting in her mother’s depression, have given her more determination than perhaps even she realises. Ingrid’s dry wit and resolve shines through, even when she’s right at the end of her rope. We follow Ingrid’s emotional journey of self-discovery, meeting those individuals who have had significant impact on her past; the repercussions of which she still feels. We also meet her fellow campmates all of whom have a story to share that will help Ingrid better understand herself. A huge amount of research must have gone into this book to make each character so believable.
Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined is truly well-observed and I particularly enjoyed Ingrid’s often humorous descriptions of the daily nightmare of the trek. I had nothing but sympathy for her having to hike in soaking wet clothes, being bitten to death and deal with the ‘circle’ sessions around the campfire. This extended to huge empathy when you discover what she has been dealing with. I found her mother at times infuriating, but also felt desperately sad for her and could completely relate to her desire to protect her child. Many will relate to Ingrid’s relationships with her school friends, her first love and her responses to the dilemmas she faces. But perhaps most poignant was how the story demonstrated that we all create facades around ourselves for self-preservation; to try and control life. If we admit to ourselves and others that everything is not ‘fine’, we can then face our past and our biggest fears and in doing so, we can move forward. A great read for all young people.
Find out more at www.danielleyoungeullman.com and follow Danielle on Twitter @DanielleYUllman. With thanks to Scholastic for my copy of Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined. You can read my interview with Danielle here.