Hideous Beauty by William Hussey
Published by: Usborne
Released: 28th May 2020
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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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 Ellis suddenly becomes angry, withdrawn, and as they drive home from the dance, he loses control of the car, sending it plunging into Hunter’s Lake.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.
Trigger Warnings: Death, grief, loss, cancer, mental and physical assault, rape, sexual assault, drug use.
When Dylan’s secret relationship with Ellis is exposed via Social Media, Dylan is forced to come out and is met with a surprisingly positive reaction, especially at their Easter dance at school. Dylan’s happiness doesn’t last long as on their drive home, Ellis starts to become withdrawn and secretive and loses control of the car, sending it into a nearby lake. Dylan is pulled free, but Ellis is left to drown. Consumed by guilt and grief Dylan vows to uncover what happened to Ellis, but doing so reveals secrets about Ellis that Dylan never knew.
WOW! This book was everything I needed and blew me away. I was so in awe of it that I found it very hard to put down, and even when I had to put it down I was still thinking about it and longing for the time when I could pick it up again. I haven’t had a book do this to me in such a long time, so I knew Hideous Beauty was going to end up being one of my new favourite books of all time. You could say it was something special, which yes it was.
The plot was well executed and from the very start set things up so well. The mystery within the story was so gripping and honestly, I didn’t have the slightest idea what was going to happen next. Also, unlike many YA mysteries, the story was more focused on the characters and their relationships than having an angle of crime. Yes, it was plot-driven in a way, but yet the characters drove the story in the direction it was taking. Also, the way it was written was perfect. The story is told in alternating chapters ‘then’ and ‘now’ and this, in turn, revealed the answers to the mystery slowly, but not in a way as to bore you. This, also made me completely invested in our main protagonists as I felt that I got to know them on such a personal level through learning about their past and present.
Dylan and Ellis..oh I adored them! They were the cutest couple and I just wanted them to live happily ever after. Their relationship was just so pure and you could tell how much they loved each other, which did reduce me to tears just a few times throughout my reading. You could say that their love was a Romeo and Romeo affair, which is just heart-wrenching. These two, as individuals, also had a big impact on me. Dylan is seen as your typical nerdy, awkward teenage boy, but if you look a bit deeper he was so much more. He was passionate, he was determined and he wanted justice for his boyfriend. Ellis was also such a well thought out character in his own right. He’s flirtatious, bold and out and proud, but behind all that is a complex character, who tries his best to battle with the pain he’s suffered throughout his life. In a way, they both help each other. Ellis helps Dylan become stronger and Dylan helps Ellis become more grounded. I also want to mention Mike, Dylan’s best friend. In the LGBTQ+ YA that I’ve read previously, I don’t recall seeing any of the protagonists have a straight best friend, and I admire William for putting this in. It goes to show that just because someone is gay, doesn’t mean that they can’t have a straight male friend.
Hideous Beauty touches on a lot of important issues including LGBTQ+, loss, sexual assault, mental and physical assault, rape and drug use, all of which were dealt with in a sensitive, mindful way. I also want to point out that there is a trigger warning at the beginning of the book, which stood out to me. You don’t see that much, even though it should be happening, so I commend the author and publisher for putting that in the book. The queer representation in Hideous Beauty was next to none, also, and I loved how much thought went into it. Take Ellis for example, he wore pearls, loved art but also played football and could chug a beer. It did break all those queer stereotypes and I absolutely loved that.
Hideous Beauty was such an incredible, thrilling, beautiful read that I didn’t want to finish. It’s captivating but will also break your heart and I, for one, am not going to forget it in a hurry.