Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Review: This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

by Helen Schulman
ARC Provided by Publisher via TLC Book Tours
b&n // amazon
Published Date: Febrary 7, 2012
Publisher: Harper Prerennial; Reprint
Book Format: Paperback; pp 256
Age Demographic: Adult/Young Adult
amazon | b&n

When fifteen-year-old Jake Bergamot receives—and then forwards to a friend—a sexually explicit video that an eighth-grade admirer sent to him, the video goes viral within hours. The scandal that ensues threatens to shatter his family’s sense of security and identity—and, ultimately, their happiness. This Beautiful Life is a devastating, clear-eyed portrait of modern life that will have readers debating their assumptions about family, morality, and the choices we make in the name of love.

Summary taken from TLC Book Tours.

❝My Thoughts❞

This Beautiful Life is a poignantly written exploration of the emotional consequences of one's actions and how it can affect many lives in such a devastating way. It paints a stark portrait of the sacrifices and choices that are made in life, with regards to family, morality, and life altering lessons and trials endured by young people these days. It's not only thought provoking, but also quite disturbing in the story it has to tell. To say that it's shocking would most assuredly be an understatement. Yet, it is one of the most compelling books that I have read so far, this year.

It's a beautifully written insight into such a horrifying event. Schulman is brilliant at showcasing where the fault lies from such a potentially bad juvenile decision, how the fall out is eventually dealt with, as well as highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the Bergamot family and their shortcomings. With Jake's poor judgment at hand, comes the revelation that not one person in the Bergamot family unit is unscathed by his lack of what seems to be a much needed moral compass. It further raises even more questions regarding their parental responsibilities. The exposure garnered from such a horrendous blunder on Jake's behalf, is enough to emotionally devastate his whole family in one way or another.

This Beautiful Life addressees issues that deal with the social boundaries of privacy, the culpability of such an ugly event, and the moral responsibility people have to themselves to acknowledge right from wrong. One of the drawbacks with this novel is that the parents seemed to be just as confused as their children were, as far as culpability was concerned. For instance, one could say that the young teenage girl was at fault for making such an explicit video and sending it to Jake, but I personally feel as if Jake is more at fault for making the choice to not delete it or at least tell his parents about it and then forwarding it on to all of his friends, so they could forward it onto theirs. It almost seemed, at times, as if the parents were only worried about protecting their own family names or reputation. The confusion and angst surrounding this story is captured in such a beautiful way, that the moral outcome of this book will stay with readers long after the last page has been turned.

Schulman does a wonderful job of making all of her character's sympathetic to reader's, in such a realistic way that they will stick with them. While it is true that what Jake did was wrong by forwarding that video on to his friend, he never would have done so if he had known that it would hurt Daisy in such the way that it did. This Beautiful Life is a heart-wrenching, emotional rollercoaster that is thought provoking, and filled with beautiful prose. It is a story about personal choices and how mistakes can affect people, in many ways as result of them. The characters and story arc are well developed, while still possessing hidden but realistic flaws of their own.

This Beautiful Life is not a novel that readers will soon be forgetting.


HELEN SCHULMANHelen Schulman is the author of the novels A Day at the Beach, P.S., The Revisionist, and Out of Time, as well as the short story collection Not a Free Show. An associate professor of writing at The New School, she lives in New York City.

Note: The link to where you can find the summary of This Beautiful Life is also where you can find the rest of the tour stops and reviews for this brilliant novel at TLC Book Tours.

TLC BOOK TOURS This book was received from HarperCollins via TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review which I have provided. No money exchanged hands, I review books for fun because I love to read. I am not interested in monetary gain.


  1. Such a well written and thoughtful post! I loved reading your review and I think I might have to check this book out. I'm definitely a fan of contemporary lit!

    Stephanie- Please visit my latest post & if you haven’t already, enter my International Giveaway!

  2. One of the most compelling books of the year?! What high praise!

    Sounds like there's a lot of things in this book that would be great to discuss in a book club!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  3. I'm writing this down to check out. I really want to read it. Great review as always Suz!

  4. Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  5. Thank you, so much for featuring my review of This Beautiful Life on TLC's Facebook page. That's an honor. :)

  6. There a number of things that would be great to discuss in a book club, which is why I really enjoyed the book, even though it did sort of leave me feeling a bit uncomfortable reading at certain points. Thanks, so much for letting me be a part of the through. I really enjoyed it. :)

  7. You should definitely read it, because it's a really good novel. :)

  8. I love books like this because it is so relevant to today's times!


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