Beautiful Children

Title: Beautiful Children
Author: Charles Bock
Pub: 2008; Random House
Pages: 413
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Rating: Like it

Was there any way to jump-start a libido quicker? Any other place on the planet that instantly offered the chance to reverse fortune and end losing streaks, the chance to set right a lifetime of disappointments? How could one read the gracious message - WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - and feel anything but tingling anticipation? (22)

Have you ever watched the movie Happiness? It's a brilliant film, but one that I'm always reluctant to recommend because it is so unclean. Seriously. You kinda wanna take a shower after viewing it and wash away the emotional cringe factor of humanity.

That's how I feel about Beautiful Children. I read it a couple of weeks go and couldn't decide how to review it, so I put it aside until something came to me. Well, weeks later, and still nothing. Nothing outside that unsettled feeling of devastation.

Despair. That's how I would define this novel. And it's beautifully done. It leaves a feeling of despair.

There are several lives that intersect in the hellish city of Las Vegas: a nerdy comic lovin' adolescent who has no friend (except), an awkward teenage artist who draws comics, a comic book illustrator who seems to have a problem with emotional connection and relies on lots of sex to counteract that, a stripper who plans on getting out (don't they all?), the stripper's boyfriend who is a dirty criminal (shocking, of course), and then a slew of homeless kids that come in and out of scenes.

The story begins with Newell, the nerdy kid whose only friend is the awkward teenage artist, and I suppose you could say that he is the impetus of the novel for he goes missing. That's how the story opens; Newell is gone. The chapters are told in segments of time all leading up to the missing child. And everything else is a smorgasbord of what happens in Vegas in a night.

Can I just tell you that there really aren't any likable characters? The closest would be Newell's parents, but that's mainly because they come across utterly wounded at the loss of their only child. How it affects their relationship with one and another and how each of them grieves are so real that I cannot help but feel pity for them.

The author does a wonderful job at exploring street life for teens and for strippers. I might not have *liked* the characters but I felt they were real.

If you are in a good place in your life then I would read this book. If you're already depressed with the world, move on please.


  1. Sounds very gritty and sad. It has a rockin' cover though. ;)

  2. Sometimes I wonder why there are no cheerful characters in young adult novels. Why?

    I read Nancy Drew the other day for the first time. What a shock! She was cheerful. Helpful. Kind. Really, a little Boy Scout.

    Why do we never have these characters in our novels any more? Do they no longer exist?

  3. Anna - I love the cover! It's why I initially picked it up.

    Readerbuzz - it's definitely not a young adult book. :) At least I would never put it on my shelf.


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