Margin Notes

Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman


Inside a now/then/now/then chronological order, we follow Ingrid as she was then: a child travelling all over Europe with her opera star mother where life was, “beautiful and bright, and everyday soared with music” to now, where she is 17 and on a summertime wilderness survival trek for at risk teens: addicts, runaways, and her.

In a series of letters she writes to her mother while trying to survive in the wilderness, Ingrid reveals the secrets of her life and comes to terms with the trauma she has experienced. With the help of an eclectic group of wilderness campers, Ingrid slowly finds both her voice, and a purpose in the experience. Near the end of her 21-day camp experience, she writes to her mother: “I get it now. Peak Wilderness is geared to breaking down your barriers – physical, psychological, mental. Bringing you face-to-face with the best and worst of yourself, teaching you things you didn’t know about yourself, facing your demons. My demon is you.”

This book is both a page-turner and one that will leave you thinking long after you finish the last page. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy realistic fiction and endings that are downright shocking. The themes are mature and the struggles universal. Without hesitation, I would add this novel to my high school classroom library, but as always, you know your students best, and who needs what book at what time in their reading lives.


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