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‘Beautifully Broken’ is Just Broken

‘Beautifully Broken’ is Just Broken

Novel Endorses Many Awful Stereotypes


I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I should have known Laura Lee’s new adult fiction novel, “Beautifully Broken” was going to be iffy. Not only that, but the title suggests the manic pixie dream girl trope, or at the very least, some sort of outdated idea that beautiful women have some internal flaw to be managed.
This book was a train wreck, and as such I was compelled to keep flipping through the pages as the story reached total destruction. I was hopeful of maybe even a surprising redemption in the end, a resolution to the irresponsible story telling that made the sloppy writing worth reading.

It never came.
The book starts with high school student Kat celebrating her 18th birthday in a dive bar by way of a fake ID.

A gorgeous stranger walks in, and she predictably tries to seduce him. She doesn’t want to exchange names or stories, she just wants to screw. The book supposes this is what every man wants, and the duo goes back to the gorgeous stranger’s house.  The reader then endures a clumsy mess of attempted erotica in first person, present tense narrative for the next several pages.
I should have stopped there, but I thought it would get better. Instead, the book recklessly uses cliché tropes from ‘hot for teacher taboos’ to strippers and other sex workers without much qualification.

Kat’s mother, who Kat just refers to as Cybil, is a prostitute and a heroin addict. Of course. Cybil is why Kat has been ‘bounced around the system’ – as Kat says – as a foster child. Cybil is exactly the popular assumption of sex workers – selfish, drug-addled and beyond hope.

Kat may use sexuality to get her way, but Lee suggests Kat is better than her mother because she doesn’t have sex for money, just to escape reality. Lee further misrepresents men by making them into an untrue stereotype as well – they are controlled by sexual urges and will cave to impulse when a beautiful woman tempts them.
I tried to forgive the ignorance in the serious subjects Lee was trying to tackle because she did give Kat an admirable autonomy and emotional awareness. But even with Kat’s awareness and growing strength, it still turned into a damsel in distress story where Prince Charming saved the day.

It was in that moment I knew the woman would be healed and saved by the man. There weren’t enough pages left for Lee to flip the script with a refreshing twist of power. I wasn’t just mad at the miserable experience of reading the book, I was appalled by the perpetuation of destructive mythologies.
I’ll admit there was something compelling enough about the book to read the entire thing, but I felt dirty and betrayed by the final chapter.

Lex Voytek is a nervous wreck and reading quiets the noise. Reach her at books@freeabq.com

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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