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Thursday, 28 May 2020

Hideous Beauty by William Hussey [Review]

Written by: William Hussey.
Published by: Usborne.
Format: Paperback.
Released: 28th May 2020.
Rating: 5/5.

Official synopsis: "When Dylan and Ellis’s secret relationship is exposed on social media, Dylan is forced to come out. To Dylan’s surprise they are met with support and congratulations, and an amazing reception at their highschool dance. Perhaps people aren’t as narrow-minded as he thought? But Dylan’s happiness is short-lived. Ellis suddenly becomes angry, withdrawn, and as they drive home from the dance, he loses control of the car, sending it plunging into Hunter’s Lake. Barely conscious, Dylan is pulled free of the wreck, while Ellis is left to drown. Grief-stricken, Dylan vows to discover what happened to Ellis that night and piece together the last months of his boyfriend’s life – and realises just how little he knew about the boy he loved."


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Hideous Beauty was the first book I read in 2020. I've waited this long to actually put all my thoughts together for a few reasons. 1) I don't like to review books too early before publication. And 2) Because this book held my heart so tightly I didn't even really know what to say. It has taken me a while to really collect my thoughts and to just take a deep breath and say how I feel. I love this book. 

I've followed William's career for a while now. I remember reading his debut trilogy, Witchfinder, way back when they were published and I remember enjoying them. There are reviews somewhere in the depths of this blog, and I've enjoyed everything he has published since. But with this book, there's something about it that just calls to me. I remember having a chat with Will over Twitter once saying that I thought that UKYA was seriously lacking some good gay stories. I'm not talking characters shoe-horned in to tick a quota. I'm taking full on gay stories that are proud to be there. I remember saying that I wished we had our own version of Simon VS. the Homosapien Agenda. Something that felt quintessentially British. Something that reflected, at least in parts, the British gay experience. And I feel like Hideous Beauty is a perfect example of this. 

Will's writing is so engaging and had me turning the pages so quick. I felt so drawn into the world of Dylan and Ellis that I just could not stop reading. Even when terrible, terrible things were happening I just couldn't put it down. It was so addictive it should come with a warning!

The characters are an absolute mixed bag. We have lovable characters, characters you love to hate, characters that you literally want to gag when they come up on the page because you know someone exactly like them in real life and you cannot stand them. I loved this. No one felt like they had been shoe-horned in. It all felt so real and natural. The typical popular girl at school who is a bit of a bitch. The dumb brother who just can't help but say stupid things. The best friend who is always there, even when they have their own stuff going on. William did such a good job of giving everyone the right amount of page time and fleshing them out. But enough of the back up dancers, let's get to the boys themselves!

Dylan is gay, but he isn't ready to tell the world yet. He's met El, and things are going great, better than great, until he's outed and forced to reveal something that should have been on his own terms, when he was ready. When tragedy strikes, and Dylan's life is changed forever, the book transforms into a mystery thriller that will have you desperate to find out just what the hell is going on! I saw a lot of myself in Dylan. Timid, always the one to hide in the back or in the library just letting everyone else get on with their lives while I have my head stuck in a book. Scared of what people might think about me, trying to draw as little attention to myself as possible.

El. Oh God. Wonderful, charismatic, loud and proud El. I, much like Dylan, fell for this boy from the very beginning. There is just something about him, maybe his air of mystery, that just makes you gravitate towards him. Like no matter what happens, when you're with him, you're safe.

Page 93. That's all I need to say. Page 93. If you know, you know. This particular page had me sobbing and I remember messaging Will when I read it and thanking him. Thanking him for showing me that someone else understood something that I had felt myself. Just, when you read, you'll know. 

As the book progresses it becomes more and more heart in your mouth, gut-wrenchingly good. And that last chapter. I mean, I cried quite a few times reading this book and I'm not ashamed to admit it. One thing I really appreciated was the darkness in the book. I don't mean to sound like I'm insane, but what I mean is sometimes YA can be too fluffy and I'm so glad that Hideous Beauty has this grittiness to it. It deals with some pretty dark themes that I felt just made it all the more real. No ferris wheels here, boys and girls!

Personally, I really struggled with coming to terms with my sexuality, both in my teen years and right up until I came out at 21. Sometimes I still do. This book made me feel so many emotions, made me think about so many different scenarios in my own life where I could have done things differently, where I could maybe have been a little braver, just like Dylan. Just like El. That is the beauty of a good book. Yes, it takes you away from your own life and takes you into a world that isn't your own, but it also makes you think about your own life, how you see the world. It's a magical experience and one I am so glad to have had with reading this book. Thank you Will! Books like this would have made all the difference to my fourteen year old self and I really hope that it helps some kids today in ways they might never have had otherwise.

I know this review has been a little but of a ramble, but I have so many thoughts and feelings that I could literally sit here all day and just gush about this wonderful book. I cannot recommend it enough and I cannot thank Will enough for such a wonderful, wonderful read. It was exactly what I needed, when I needed it and I cannot wait for others to share on this amazing journey and I cannot wait to reread it and live it all again, even the tears. 

Hideous Beauty is out now!