13 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A vibrant portait of the cycle of self-destruction,
This review is from: Beautiful Children: A Novel (Hardcover)
Charles Bock weaves a captivating tale of disillusionment and discontent, detailing the intersecting lives of runaway teen Newell, his parents shattered by his disappearance, and a whole cast of hooligans he meets on his nihilistic quest: an angry and naive anarchist teenage girl, a tragically handsome sociopath, his perpetually optimistic stripper girlfriend, and a foolish aging cartoonist. The story is set against the sweltering neon Las Vegas summer.
The story centers around the events leading up to the disappearance of the spoiled and rebellious preteen Newell. His parents grieve and desperately flail in the wake of his loss. We learn of the predatory and heartbreaking lives of the runaways living in Las Vegas, and the villains who prey on them and sometimes, each other. The life of each person who crosses the path leading towards Newell's disappearance is described in incredible, brutally honest detail.
In each relationship, misunderstandings and selfishness drive the characters apart, and the line between innocent rebellion and pathological destructiveness gets blurred. Each character hopefully reaches to the wrong person at the wrong time, only to get their trust taken advantage of, only to fall farther into the cycle of violence and exploitation.
The story is beautifully written, and has a language and rhythm all its own. The storytelling is so immersive that when I looked up from the book, I was surprised to find myself not in the desert, not surrounded by predatory teenagers. This story is a dark one, but somehow cathartic. Everyone knows a destructive person who cannot be helped, who cannot be understood. This book helps you understand not the individual pathology of people like this, but the system, the cycle they are a part of.