We Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2019
It’s been a year since fifteen-year-old Mia Hopkins was in the car crash that killed her older sister and left her terribly scarred. The doctors tell her she was lucky to survive. Her therapist says it will take time to heal. The police reports claim there were trace amounts of alcohol in her bloodstream. But no matter how much she tries to reconstruct the events of that fateful night, Mia’s memory is spotty at best. She’s left with accusations, rumors, and guilt so powerful it could consume her.
As the rest of Mia’s family struggles with their own grief, Mia is sent to New York City to spend the summer with a grandmother she’s never met. All Mia wants to do is hide from the world, but instead she’s stuck with a summer job in the bustling kitchens of the cafe down the street. There she meets Fig–blue-haired, friendly, and vivacious–who takes Mia under her wing. As Mia gets to know Fig and her friends–including Cooper, the artistic boy who is always on Mia’s mind–she realizes that she’s not the only one with a painful past.
Over the summer, Mia begins to learn that redemption isn’t as impossible as she once thought, but her scars inside run deep and aren’t nearly so simple to heal … especially when Mia finally pieces together her memories of the night Rachel died.
Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with this e-ARC for an honest review.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I started reading this book but I was pleasantly surprised! In the beginning, I was a bit confused because it felt like I was just thrown into the middle of a story, but once I got oriented it was a breeze!
Mia was a really relatable character and I really felt her pain and her insecurity and guilt radiate off the page. Mixed with her new and almost polar opposite friend Fig, it made for quite some entertaining conversations and fun! It was refreshing to see a friendship that wasn’t completely about Mia feeling left out because she was new. And it was nice to see Fig including her and just being so nice and bubbly!
I really enjoyed the incorporation of art and food! While the elements of the YA contemporary remained the same, it became unique with the fun art related things and with the interesting characters in the restaurant Mia had to work in.
I also really loved the family dynamics. Mia’s family was strange and heartbroken and difficult. And Mia had to live with a grandmother she never knew… but seeing their growing relationship just made me so happy! And on top of that, there was lots of fun drama and antics with Fig’s family at the restaurant! They were loud and sort of gossipy and hilarious! The interactions between all the different characters really gave this story a bump up!
There’s one part in particular, where Mia gets to really know her new friends and understand that she doesn’t have to feel guilty or alone in her tragedy that really got me. It was really touching to see that kind of realization and that solidarity in friendships and family.
This book read like a Sarah Dessen novel (and if you don’t know me, I love Sarah Dessen!). It was happy and sad with a sprinkle of drama and romance! I loved the characters’ stories and (of course) the character development!
I would recommend this to anyone who likes to read about tragedies and what follows them, guilt and resurfacing memories, friendship and romance, photography and art, really delicious pastries, and family drama.
A trigger warning to readers: Mia does suffer from some PTSD (as she has to deal with her sister’s death and the guilt that comes with it). There’s also mentions of domestic abuse.