The Beauty That Remains

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Mar 2018

Member Reviews

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk is a poignantly moving story of the heartbreak one experiences when losing someone they deeply love. This is they story of three friends who find solace within music to help them  navigate the pain they all feel after each of them has tragedy strike in their worlds. Ashley Woodfolk writes a compelling story that will touch your heart. Happy reading!
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Then we just sit there, silent and lonely for you together, because hellos are nice and neat and so much easier than goodbyes.”

The Beauty that Remains is the type of book that will be staying with me long after I’ve finished. Even now, I’m at loss for words. My review, my thoughts, my personal views; nothing will measure up to how beautiful and profound Ashley Woodfork made her debut into the book community. I knew as soon as I saw the blurb, that the story would be powerful—and I was right. We follow Autumn, Shay, and Logan as they struggle to get past the death of a loved one. 

“Music is the only reason I can ever ignore the feelings that always have me on edge; that almost never leave me alone.”

The book is told on three separate POVs; with each telling us their stories of coping—or trying to—without the loved one. Autumn has lost her best friend, Logan lost his ex-boyfriend—the one and only boy he ever loved—and Shay lost her twin sister. All three are on a journey of self-discovery, music, and eventually learning to move on. Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting. Music plays a tremendously huge part in the book, by bringing these sad and lonely souls together. Music heals, inspires, and says the words you don’t know how to say. 

I’ve been touched by the words the message the author has given us. The main theme if you haven’t already figured it out is grief. Everyone handles it differently and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s so melodramatic for me to say but after I finished reading my heart wept. I think this is going to be a huge success—something I think it absolutely deserves. This is for readers who have lost and learned to love again, and for ones looking for something deep and meaningful. 

My heart’s beating. 
My chest’s heaving. 
I’m not breathing. 
And you’re gone.
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Picking up this book was an internal battle for me. "I don't like grief as plot. But I do love books about music. But I don't like how books mostly about loss are often plotless and just tug on your heartstrings. But I do like how diverse this seems to be. Anyway I picked up the book and all of these things came into play exactly how I knew they would. My love of the music kept me going through disliking grief as plot and my interest in two of the characters kept me going through the (sometimes) plotlessness of this.

I had some trouble with the pacing. I wasn't truly invested in the book until literally more than halfway through, when some semblance of plot shows itself. Until that point, it is all three characters talking about how sad they are, just in slightly different settings. Now I KNOW that's necessary. Set us up. Let the reader see how much grief has affected the lives of our main characters. But for more than half the book? It really affected my overall opinion of this that I spent so much of it going okay but where is the story? And I think part of my problem is with one of the characters.

I really love Logan and Shay, and their stories kept me going. I do like that the kids get through their grief in very messy, realistic ways. However, I find Autumn boring and her story stays mostly exactly the same until 95% of the way through the book and I found myself skimming her chapters unintentionally and having to go back through. One reason alternating POV (just like alternating timelines) is tricky, is because if the reader doesn't like one of them, it's easy to put the book down. When I saw that the next chapter was an Autumn chapter, I'd find excuses to not keep reading right that second. There is just NO more to her than her grief and her boyfriend. Which, tbh, is kinda a problem with all of the characters. I understand that sorrow and loss tend to give people tunnel vision. But Idk. I can't read a story with no story. If it's going to be this character driven, I need characters with more to them.

So there's all that but then also the blurb ends with this: "Despite the odds, one band's music will reunite them". So, that's what I thought the book would be about. I thought there would be WAY more music than there actually is. This reunion doesn't happen until the veeeeery end of the book. Like last 30 pages. The book isn't ABOUT the kids reuniting, which was my impression after having read the back cover synopsis. This aspect is really disappointing to me.

I do really love the diversity, and I love the pieces of music we do get.
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This was basically three stories in one, all having to do with the central theme of grief. Having recently lost my grandfather, I found myself relating to different characters at different times and immersing myself into the stories.

Thank you to NetGalley for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk (March 6)
Overview: Shay, Logan, and Autumn have all recently experienced losses of people very close to them. Shay lost her sister to Leukemia, Logan lost his exboyfriend to a drug overdose, and Autumn lost her best friend in a car accident. They all feel grief for incidents they had no control over, and this book talks about their journeys to cope. While they run separately for the most part, the once famous band, Unraveling Lovely, gathers all the grieving teens together for the chance at moving forward. Overall: 4

Characters: 4 I liked all of the main characters for different reasons. At the beginning, Shay's voice was my favorite to read from. As a twin who lost her sister, she struggles with an identity crisis about who she is now. Shay is also a music blogger, something she did with her sister and friends. I loved all the touches about blogging!
Autumn's voice was an interesting insight as well, though I didn't feel like she got to shine like the others. Her narrative about dealing with the loss of a best friend, Tavia, is something that really resonates. She also struggles with how to deal with her feelings for Dante, Tavia's brother, especially since she's learned he feels the same. They both feel guilt about what happened, like they could have prevented tragedy, and the way they work through it together with push and pull is wonderful. Sadly, this narrative was bogged down the many extra characters and sometimes friends that cluttered Autumn's life.
Finally, Logan was my favorite. He stood out from the girls with his distinct voice, and I found his storyline by far the most compelling. I feel that Logan really explored the full cycle of grief from self destructive behaviors to trying to create a new, removed life and then going to therapy to address his feelings of loss. I also felt like I really got to know who Bram, his exboyfriend, was as a person, and that allowed me to form a connection I didn't have with the other characters.
The three character point of views did feel necessary, as for most of the book, it is three, entirely separate stories. Though the characterscape felt cluttered at times, the main characters meshed well with one another.

Plot: 4 I found the stories to be engaging. Though there could have been some clearer links between our three stories, I really liked how all of the stories worked towards a beautiful, satisfying, shared epilogue.

Writing: 4 On the whole, I felt that this story was strong. I love the idea of showing so many different kinds of grief and how there are so many ways to cope with it. There were some truly lovely passages that I would like to go back and highlight. Unfortunately, there were moments that I felt could have been edited a bit better to maximize the effect, and I felt that the theme of using music to work through grief felt forced at some points. I did enjoy, though, the band Unraveling Lovely's story role with all of these POVs. As it involved Shay's friend Rohan, Autumn's boyfriend Dante, and Logan, the band's life road the ups and downs of their grief as well. The musical aspect shown strongly there.
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“No one ever talks about the living who have unfinished business with the dead.” 

Told in a trio of alternating POVs, Woodfolk’s emotional debut centers on that exact dilemma through the lives of three diverse characters all mourning the death of a loved one:

Autumn, an adopted Korean teen, is lost after the sudden and unexpected death of her best friend, Tavia; Logan, a red-haired gay teen, is struggling with grief and guilt after his ex-boyfriend, Bram, commits suicide; and Shay, an African American teen, is fighting to keep her panic attacks at bay after her twin sister, Sasha, loses her years-long battle with Leukemia. 

“Losing a twin is like losing a leg – you forget how to stand on your own because you never needed to.” 

Since the characters have already faced the unimaginable, the story focuses entirely on what comes after tragedy strikes. It’s about how these characters deal and attempt to resolve that unfinished business.

“I never said sorry after our fight...and now I’ll never get to tell him I’m sorry. It all seems so stupid now.” 

By focusing so heavily on the characters’ individual routes to acceptance we’re blessed with credible plot lines and real emotions. We’re exposed to flashes of the denial, guilt, anger, and depression the characters come up against. We’re privy to #squadgoal friendships, positive representations of therapy, support groups, interventions, and reaching out for help. BUT the burden of all that detail is that it doesn’t feel like anything happens. 

Maybe I’m too used to reading thrillers with twists every few chapters, or romances where the will-they-won’t-they keeps us guessing. Maybe I’m bitter because I didn’t cry and was hyped and prepped for tears. Whatever the reason may be, I just felt like nothing had truly gone down by the end of this novel. However, it’d be irresponsible for me to not point out that there’s a strength in that and how it emulates life. And at the end of the day it’ll serve as a better tool for grieving readers by being so firmly rooted in realism.

Whether you can relate personally or not, this novel manages to pull off some serious subject matter with laughs, love, and good advice. And if you’ll let her, Woodfolk will guide you to the light by shifting your focus to "the beauty that remains.” 

Thank you so much to Delacorte Press for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All quotes were taken from an unfinished proof and may change by final publication date.
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Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to preview this ARC of The Beauty that Remains by Ashley Woodfolk.

Autumn, Shay, and Logan are both promising musicians in HS, all with hopeful futures.  But their lives are torn to shreds when they all experience deaths of people that they love, or loved.  Through one band, and the music that they love, they will be able to find peace, and hopefully, each other.

Ok, YA books about death are so important.  And this covers different types of death, illness, accidents, violence and suicide.  Teens will experience these things, tragedy does not consider age.  And I appreciated how diverse the characters are.  From WOC to LGBTQ, we cover a broad range of social issues that are so important.

Having said that, this book was also a stark reminder that I am too old for some of these YA books just because I got exhausted with the constant drama.  I'm not saying that the drama isn't important.  When you are a teen experiencing the hardest things you've ever gone through, drama is significant.  But, I'm just not the desired audience, so it didn't quite illicit the response that I believe it was meant to.
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This was such a beautiful book. The writing was great, the characters had beautiful stories, and the flow of it all was impeccable. I've been handselling this like crazy!
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I loved this book! The full review will be posted soon at kaitgoodwin.com/books! Thank you very much for this wonderful opportunity to connect books to their readers!
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3.5 stars.

This story follows a group of seemingly unconnected teenagers as they deal with the grief of the death of someone they love. 

The writing style and concept of this book was unique and intruiging. However, the voice and authenticity of the characters seemed to fall a little flat for me. As a surviving sister, I wanted to love this book, and I should have loved this book. Instead, I had a hard time connecting to any of the characters. 

The story is told in three alternating perspectives; Shay, Autumn, and Logan. In each of these three perspectives there are several other characters connected to them and their part of the story. In the end, you learn how all three storylines are connected. While the concept of this sounds intriguing, it ended up being a little chaotic and at times hard to follow. 

Additionally, the way each character handled their grief didn’t feel guinuine to me. The boys were all shown to grieve in different ways, which is normal and believable, but the two girls felt to be handling their grief in the same manner, which could be true but I felt the story could have benefited more with different perspectives to their healing process, too. 

Overall, the story good, but didn’t grip me the way that I had anticipated. With this being a debut novel, I would like to read her next book and see how she grows as a writer.
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Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

This book was so heavy and emotional but so good. The writing is great and the characters are so well developed. Grab the tissues.
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An incredibly beautiful book about grief and loss and the difficulty in moving on after a tragedy. Told in alternating points of view by several teens who have all lost someone close to them. Woodfolk examines the different ways people grieve lost loved ones and how to ultimately move on with your life. All the stories interconnect in a weave together seamlessly at the end.
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When I started this book I honestly didn’t know it was going to be this kind of story, but I have to say I ended up really loving it. It was tough, but overall it was really beautifully written book that dealt with the loss of a loved one.

I was completely blown away by how diverse this story was. There was a black main character, and adopted korean girl, a gay boy and spanish side characters, and let me tell you I loved all of them. It’s true that at the beginning I didn’t know much about each one, just the death of a closer person and how they are trying to cope or live with that, but as the story continued, I started connecting more and more with each single character.

Something I really loved about this book was how supportive the friendships were. That was almost my favourite part of the book, because I cannot tell you how much I adore to see healthy friends in YA contemporary books, so seeing side characters that were there for the protagonists was actually a really cool thing to read.

Also another thing I really liked seeing was how different their reactions to a death were, and how each tried a different thing to cope with that loss. I feel like not only they were really different characters, but also those deaths were completely different one from the other (one being a twin and the other a best friend), so seeing those characters react differently to a similar event made it more realistic to me, and also distinguished the characters from each other.

that broke my heart throughout the book. However it was all so beautifully written that it was a bittersweet aftertaste. I also really enjoyed the fact that some of those characters look for help, whether going to meeting or an actual shrink, which was such a great thing to read. I feel like in these type of stories that’s something I always want to see something like that happening.
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The Beauty That Remains intrigued me based on the description - as a high school librarian, I am always looking for diverse texts that will engage my students and stories that will be relevant to their lives. In spite of the laudatory reviews that this book garnered, I found it too similar to book that have been published recently. It was fairly predictable and the character archetypes were seemingly featured to lure in a diverse audience. I didn't find the story captivating, unfortunately, and hope that my students are more engaged than I was.
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Musings:

The Beauty That Remains was an emotionally tough read for me. It was heartbreaking, angry, hopeful, and uplifting. It was a storm of every single feeling grief brings. This novel made my soul ache.

What I Loved:

Diversity! Diversity! Diversity! This is a diverse book that no one should miss! Diverse in both poc and featuring an lgbt Mc it’s rich in telling a great story with diverse characters. (Let’s not forget the mental health reps!) #ownvoices

Grief that is helped to heal with music. I love that this story uses music as the thing that binds all the characters together and helps them find healing. It’s one of those things that is refreshing when often romantic relationships and other things are the usual things that are used for healing sadness or grief.

Each person’s grief was unique. The loss of the twin was very different from the loss of a lover which was also very different from the loss of a close friend. Every person had a different guilt and dealt with their emotions in their own way. Some of their stories were harder for me to read about Shay’s because it was breaking me. Logan because of his guilt and the fact that he was in love with a guy who caused him so much pain.

Everything rings true. This was such a difficult read because the story was so well written. The characters were living and breathing and hurting so deeply. It was all so vivid.

The relationships. Friendship, family, even the relationship between the crowd and the band were all shining points of this novel. Everything was brilliantly thought out.

Final thoughts:

I could go on forever about this book and I just want to share it with the world! The only warning I would give is for those going through grief of their own or dealing with depression to read with caution. It’s gorgeous and wonderful, but it cuts deep.
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Shay, Autumn, and Logan are grieving the deaths of a sister, a best-friend, and an ex-boyfriend.

The Beauty That Remains is a novel that explores the different manifestations of grief. It follows the perspectives of these three characters, who at first seem unrelated, but it's in rekindling their connection that healing starts to become possible.

Ashley Woodfolk crafted a really solid debut. I  liked how all three of the main characters are so different from one another and yet they have a connection that dates from before the book's beginning. To me that signified the importance of understanding, empathy, and reaching out.
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This one was a very raw, realistic, book that focused on the process on grieving. It’s a known fact that everyone grieves in their own way, and this book definitely shows quite a few of these ways. It was one of the most realistic, deep, painful reads I’ve ever read. There were quite a few tears shed throughout this book.

I loved that there were three points of view all dealing with grief, from different tragedies. The character development was perfection, I felt like I knew each of the characters on a very raw personal level. All of the characters are dealing with different losses, one the loss of a twin, one the loss of an ex-boyfriend, and one a best friend. Either way they all lost someone that they love, and handle these losses so differently. I will say I wasn’t a huge fan of the way their lives intersected, it almost seemed rushed at points.

The writing style in this book absolutely makes me want to read more by this author. It was written with so much emotion I could actually feel it. The music references were wonderful and was a great aspect. If you are looking for a book that is real and will most likely make you shed tears, I highly recommend picking this one up. Also if you are a big fan of books with music elements I can see you enjoying it.
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Some of the best, most diverse characters we've ever seen in a YA. We LOVED how characters broke stereotypes, and the author didn't shy away from tough subjects. Bravo!
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Teens will relate to the multi-character narration as it deals with love, family, friendship, grief, and moving on from tragedy.
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Beautifully written, deeply powerful book about how different people handle grief. I would recommend this book for grade 9 and up.
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