If you’re searching for a sweet romantic YA book that tackles issues such a family, parental expectations, and fear, look no further than The Beauty of the Moment.
Susan is the new girl—she’s sharp and driven, and strives to meet her parents’ expectations of excellence. Malcolm is the bad boy—he started raising hell at age fifteen, after his mom died of cancer, and has had a reputation ever since.
Susan’s parents are on the verge of divorce. Malcolm’s dad is a known adulterer.
Susan hasn’t told anyone, but she wants to be an artist. Malcolm doesn’t know what he wants—until he meets her.
Love is messy and families are messier, but in spite of their burdens, Susan and Malcolm fall for each other. The ways they drift apart and come back together are testaments to family, culture, and being true to who you are.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
What I loved about The Beauty of the Moment was how it could deliver on so many levels. It touched a nerve in my heart with its romance and comedic elements – I am a sucker for some good banter. But what’s more, The Beauty of the Moment delivers two extremely thoughtful main characters who are dealing with issues of identity, family, and fear of getting hurt. There was something so relatable and empathetic about their struggles with relationships, with their parents, and their own futures.
From the first chapter, you can see that The Beauty of the Moment is more than your typical YA romance. It reveals its different layers from the beginning, the ways Susan struggles to fit in Canada and the differences in her life versus her best friend who still lives in Saudi Arabia. Or the way that both Susan and Malcom struggle with their families, the selfishness of people’s actions, and the capability for those we love to disappoint us. At the same time, our two intrepid teens are so relatably afraid of getting hurt, guarding their hearts, and afraid to either care too much about what other’s think, or too afraid of disappointment.
There’s something in this book that just grabs you at every heart string. Whether it’s that moment when we realize our parents are people too, seeing the cracked veneer of our parents to the tenuous and fraught relationship under the surface. Or Susan’s deep fear of disappointing her parents with the crushing weight of their dreams on their shoulders.
I’m not sure what touched me more, Susan’s relationship with her mother – complicate as it is – or Malcom’s relationship with his step mother. And that’s what I’m talking about. The Beauty of the Moment is a book that transports you deep into their lives. They feel like rounded complex three dimensional characters in this dual perspective book. And they never feel like they’re just around to fulfill a story, there are loose ends and unanswered questions, but at the heart of the book are characters who are just trying to do their best.
They make mistakes, say cruel words, but they also try to grow and adapt. At the same time, we look at so many characters, so many different foils and reflections, of people who gave up their dreams, who weren’t honest, who tried to make the best of it. And where do they end up?
Diversity of Representation
Another subtler theme I loved in The Beauty of the Moment is the different portrayals of desi teens. Whether it be through Susan’s best friend at home, or the other teens Susan becomes friends with in Canada who struggle with their parent’s marriage expectations, or names that are constantly teased, or even the differences in mindset between first and second generation immigrants. It just further highlights, and celebrates, that diversity isn’t a monolith.
The Beauty of the Moment is a book I would recommend to everyone. Even if you don’t normally read contemporary stories, I think this one will sweep you up in its complex characters. Whether you want to read a book about difficult families, learning to stand up for yourself, or love, this book has it all. If this moment is all we have, how do we make the most of the time, and relationships, we have in this moment? Sometimes we have to face what terrorizes us most, our failures, our fears, our doubt, in order to live, to chase our dreams, and to be true to ourselves. It’s a book about our fear of loving and being hurt, of failing our loved ones, of recognizing how different we are from who we want to be, who we cannot be.