Book Review: This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

February 28, 2012 book review 6

The Bergamot family have moved from the quiet and academia of Ithica NY to NYC, and they are working at fitting in.  Richard is busy working, Liz is trying to manage the social lives of 15 year old Jake and 5 year old Coco.  Life is very different in NYC, kids in a private school and very busy.  The book starts out with a very disturbing scene.  A teen girl is trying to make a point to a teen boy that she is not too young to have sex with.  She proceeds to video tape a  sexually explicit act. 

We then forward through a Friday night where both Jake and Coco have parties to attend.  Liz escorts Coco to an over the top sleep over at The Plaza Hotel.  Oddly the mothers are drinking and enjoying their own break from their families.  Jake and his friends are off to a party of the teen variety, these are mostly financially indulged kids, and parties pop up when parents are away.  Plans are thwarted when one friend’s parents change their plans and the boys are in search of somewhere new.  They end up at the home of 14 year old Daisy Cavanaugh, her house free of adults, and yet full of alcohol and music and bedrooms and movie rooms to sneak off to.  Jake finds himself lured by the too young and not so pretty Daisy as a way to block out the crush he has on another girl.  After making out with Daisy he turns down her offer for more, knowing he does not want to make a bigger mistake with this young girl.  Daisy is left angry and hurt. 

As you can imagine the teen girl in the aforementioned video is Daisy, and the recipient is Jake.  Jake is shocked, and forwards the video to a friend…………and this is the beginning of a downward spiral for him and his family. 

This book has such a good premise, and yet something was missing for me.  I read this book for my book club, Babes,Books and Bordeaux, and most of us were left feeling little love for this one.  I just couldn’t get invested in any of the characters. No one was likable, I didn’t feel empathy for anyone in particular as you would expect.   The story line was also all over the place.  So so many details of Liz and Coco’s party and it honestly had little do with the other story lines in the book.  Intricate details of the night Jake and his friend spent together, too long.  A few other story lines that went nowhere, and not enough of a look into what happened to the key characters after the awful video was made .  I just kept thinking that this book could have done so much more.  It could have been a cautionary tale of teens and their love of immediate communication and their lack of good judgement.  I gave this book a 3 out of 5stars, it might only be a 2.5 stars.

If you’d like a better book about teens and their judgement with sexually explicit material, read Therese Fowler’s Exposure.

6 Responses to “Book Review: This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman”

  1. Zibilee

    I found the adults in this book to be entirely too self indulgent, and the kids to be very troublesome as well. I also didn’t like any of the characters, and thought that the books just sort of fell apart around me as I read. This was a very nice review, and seems to encapsulate a lot of the feelings we all had for the book.

  2. Anita

    I know these scenarios play out in our daily lives, but it saddens me too much to see young people used sexually; like that guy that was videotaped with his male friend and ultimately, committed suicide.

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