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4.1 177
by Amy Reed

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Download a free excerpt of Beautiful.

When Cassie moves from the tiny town where she has always lived to a suburb of Seattle, she is determined to leave her boring, good-girl existence behind. This is Cassie's chance to stop being


Download a free excerpt of Beautiful.

When Cassie moves from the tiny town where she has always lived to a suburb of Seattle, she is determined to leave her boring, good-girl existence behind. This is Cassie's chance to stop being invisible and become the kind of girl who's worth noticing.

Stepping into her new identity turns out to be easier than Cassie could have ever imagined...one moment, one choice, will change everything.

Cassie's new existence both thrills and terrifies her. Swept into a world of illicit parties and social landmines, she sheds her virginity, embraces the numbness she feels from the drugs, and floats through it all, knowing that she is now called beautiful. She ignores the dangers of her fast-paced life?but she can't sidestep the secrets and the cruelty.

Cassie is trapped in a swift downward spiral tinged with violence and abuse, and no one—not even the one person she thought she could trust—can help her now.

?Beautiful is stark, disquieting and, quite simply, riveting. Amy Reed is an author to keep on your radar.? —Ellen Hopkins, bestselling author of Crank

?A latter-day Go Ask Alice, Beautiful is raw, gritty, and powerful, an intense ice-pick jab to the heart. A stunning debut and a must-read.? —R.A. Nelson, author of Teach Me

"In crisp, clean prose Amy Reed places the reader right into the heart and mind and life of a girl who makes the choice to be one of the beautiful ones. Reed gives a disturbing and concise snapshot of what it can be like today for teens struggling with self-identity and peer acceptance when in a heartbeat they follow the 'wrong road.'" —M. Sindy Felin, National Book Award Finalist forTouching Snow

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - C. J. Bott
In this sad, dark book with pain-filled characters, thirteen-year-old Cassie is the new girl at school trying to recreate herself. During her transition, she is attracted to Alex, an intimidating, abusive manipulator who leads Cassie into boys, drugs, and sex. Cassie goes willingly, but during her first sexual experience, she watches from the ceiling in an out-of-body experience and later showers in scalding water—both common to rape victims. Frail and fading, Sarah, Alex's half-sister, has been sexually abused by her father since she was little—the scars prove the abuse Sarah does not remember. Messed-up and absent in her own life, Cassie wants to protect Sarah. The target audience is questionable with a main character of thirteen; most middle schools will not teach this book, and high school students rarely read about thirteen year olds. The gift in this book is Reed's ability to find the perfect words and use them in ways for which the reader is not ready. The writing is lonely, haunting, sensuous, and oddly beautiful. Reviewer: C. J. Bott
Children's Literature - Jennifer Lehmann
Beautiful is a devastating look at the downward spiral of an adolescent girl seeking acceptance. Cassie has just moved from Bainbridge Island to Seattle. No one at her new school knows her as the pudgy nobody her classmates in her small town ignored. Here, now, she is beautiful and determined to be noticed. Her decisions, while terrifying for the reader, are perfectly understandable. Her parents are loving, but more involved in their own unhappiness than in keeping a close watch on Cassie. Her new friend Alex is her ticket into the world of drugs, sex, and acceptance, but Alex's personal demons become clearer and more dangerous as their friendship deepens. The first-person, present-tense voice keeps the reader constantly absorbed in Cassie's life and never sure what the next moment may bring. Through Cassie's eyes, we see how easy it is to fall and how brutal the world can really be. Though fear never loses its grip on Cassie or on the reader's attention, persistent hope is what keeps the pages turning. For all its rawness, the story itself is beautiful and vital. Reviewer: Jennifer Lehmann
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Thirteen-year-old Cassie has bloomed. Following her family's move from an island off the coast of Washington to a Seattle suburb, she has a new attractiveness that earns her the moniker "the beautiful seventh grader." Her good looks and willingness to conform are a passport to her school's powerful clique of druggies led by Alex, a frightening but charismatic fellow seventh grader who adopts Cassie as her best friend. Cassie's compliance with Alex's demands—to burn photographs of former friends, to take acid, to have sex—secures her a position as Alex's second in command but threatens her health and safety. When Alex's half sister Sarah moves in with Alex and her wasted mother, Cassie finds her allegiance shifting from her best friend to Sarah. Reed's first novel owes a tremendous debt to Catherine Hardwicke's 2002 film Thirteen; however, where the filmic treatment of its 13-year-old heroines' dangerous experimentation is complicated by the richness of their characters and their interactions with one another and the supporting cast, this novel is less complex and more sensational. It is difficult to discern motivation for many of the characters, whose actions—Alex's in particular—are explained in almost clichéd form, and the secondary characters are one-dimensional.—Amy S. Pattee, Simmons College, Boston
Kirkus Reviews
Thirteen-year-old Cassie makes a snap decision to reinvent her nerdy, unpopular self when she moves to a new school district in Seattle. When green-haired Alex invites-actually drags-her over to the table where the "dangerous" ninth-grade boys sit, she goes along. And from there she goes along, unresisting, with everything else: heavy drinking, constant use of myriad drugs, sexual encounters that she dislikes and theft. Her dysfunctional, self-absorbed parents are numb to her growing despair, which results from her out-of-control behavior. Cassie shows remarkable insight in her first-person narration, even through her drug-induced fog. When another teen, sexually abused by her father, falls under Alex's thrall and reaches out to Cassie for help, the seventh grader hits rock bottom. Rather than acting as a cautionary tale, this novel often seems to function more as a roadmap to a dark but realistic underworld of young unsupervised teens drifting from one unsavory experience to another. A conclusion that seems implausibly optimistic, considering the life Cassie's recently led, slaps a bandage on an oozing sore. (Fiction. 14 & up)
From the Publisher
"[Beautiful] is essentially a new-millenium Go Ask Alice with a similar blend of cautionary horror story and weirdly fascinated detail . . . . Chilling narration . . . . There's boldness in the book's willingness to make Cassie unsympathetic at times . . . . Train-wreck fascination galore . . . . It'll probably be passed around enthusiastically."
--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 2009.

"The gift in this book [Beautiful] is Reed's ability to find the perfect words and use them in ways for which the reader is not ready. The writing is lonely, haunting, sensuous, and oddly beautiful."
--VOYA, August 2010

Product Details

Simon Pulse
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
HL800L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


I don’t see her coming.

I am looking at my piece of pizza. I am watching pepperoni glisten. It is my third day at the new school and I am sitting at a table next to the bathrooms. I am eating lunch with the blond girls with the pink sweaters, the girls who talk incessantly about Harvard even though we’re only in seventh grade. They are the kind of girls who have always ignored me. But these girls are different than the ones on the island. They think I am one of them.

She grabs my shoulder from behind and I jump. I turn around. She says, “What’s your name?”

I tell her, “Cassie.”

She says, “Alex.”

She is wearing an army jacket, a short jean skirt, fishnet stockings, and combat boots. Her hair is shoulder length, frizzy and green. She’s tall and skinny, not skinny like a model but skinny like a boy. Her blue eyes are so pale they don’t look human and her eyelashes and eyebrows are so blond they’re almost white. She is not pretty, not even close to pretty. But there’s something about her that’s bigger than pretty, something bigger than smart girls going to Harvard.

It’s only my third day, but I knew the second I got here that this place was different. It is not like the island, not a place ruled by good girls. I saw Alex. I saw the ninth grade boys she hangs out with, their multicolored hair, their postures of indifference, their clothes that tell everybody they’re too cool to care. I heard her loud voice drowning everything out. I saw how other girls let her cut in front of them in line. I saw everyone else looking at her, looking at the boys with their lazy confidence, everyone looking and trying not to be seen.

I saw them at the best table in the cafeteria and I decided to change. It is not hard to change when you were never anything in the first place. It is not hard to put on a T-shirt of a band you overheard the cool kids talking about, to wear tight jeans with holes, to walk by their table and make sure they see you. All it takes is moving off an island to a suburb of Seattle where no one knows who you were before.

“You’re in seventh grade.” She says this as a statement.

“Yes,” I answer.

The pink-sweater girls are looking at me like they made a big mistake.

“Where are you from?” she says.

“Bainbridge Island.”

“I can tell,” she says. “Come with me.” She grabs my wrist and my plastic fork drops. “I have some people who want to meet you.”

I’m supposed to stand up now. I’m supposed to leave the pizza and the smart girls and go with the girl named Alex to the people who want to meet me. I cannot look back, not at the plate of greasy pizza and the girls who were almost my friends. Just follow Alex. Keep walking. One step. Two steps. I must focus on my face not turning red. Focus on breathing. Stand up straight. Remember, this is what you want.

The boys are getting bigger. I must pretend I don’t notice their stares. I cannot turn red. I cannot smile the way I do when I’m nervous, with my cheeks twitching, my lips curled all awkward and lopsided. I must ignore the burn where Alex holds my wrist too tight. I cannot wonder why she’s holding my wrist the way she does, why she doesn’t trust me to walk on my own, why she keeps looking back at me, why she won’t let me out of her sight. I cannot think of maybes. I cannot think of “What if I turned around right now? What if I went the other way?” There is no other way. There is only forward, with Alex, to the boys who want to meet me.

I am slowing down. I have stopped. I am looking at big sneakers on ninth grade boys. Legs attached. Other things. Chests, arms, faces. Eyes looking. Droopy, red, big-boy eyes. Smiles. Hands on my shoulders. Pushing, guiding, driving me.

“James, this is Cassie, the beautiful seventh grader,” Alex says. Hair shaved on the side, mohawk in the middle, face pretty and flawless. This one’s the cutest. This one’s the leader.

“Wes, this is Cassie, the beautiful seventh grader.” Pants baggy, legs spread, lounging with arms open, baby-fat face. Not a baby, dangerous. He smiles. They all smile.

Jackson, Anthony. I remember their names. They say, “Sit down.” I do what they say. Alex nods her approval.

I must not look up from my shoes. I must pretend I don’t feel James’s leg touching mine, his mouth so close to my ear. Don’t see Alex whispering to him. Don’t feel the stares. Don’t hear the laughing. Just remember what Mom says about my “almond eyes,” my “dancer’s body,” my “high cheekbones,” my “long neck,” my hair, my lips, my breasts, all of the things I have now that I didn’t have before.

“Cassie,” James says, and my name sounds like flowers in his mouth.

“Yes.” I look at his chiseled chin. I look at his teeth, perfect and white. I do not look at his eyes.

“Are you straight?” he says, and I compute in my head what this question might mean, and I say, “Yes, well, I think so,” because I think he wants to know if I like boys. I look at his eyes and know I have made a mistake. They are green and smiling and curious, wanting me to answer correctly. He says, “I mean, are you a good girl? Or do you do bad things?”

“What do you mean by bad things?” is what I want to say, but I don’t say anything. I just look at him, hoping he cannot read my mind, cannot smell my terror, will not now realize that I do not deserve this attention, that he’s made a mistake by looking at me in this not-cruel way.

“I mean, I noticed you the last couple of days. You seemed like a good girl. But today you look different.”

It is true. I am different from what I was yesterday and all the days before that.

“So, are you straight?” he says. “I mean, do you do drugs and stuff?”

“Yeah, um, I guess so.” I haven’t. I will. Yes. I will do anything he wants. I will sit here while everyone stares at me. I will sit here until the bell rings and it is time to go back to class and the girl named Alex says, “Give me your number,” and I do.

• • •

Even though no one else talks to me for the rest of the day, I hold on to “beautiful.” I hold on to lunch tomorrow at the best table in the cafeteria. Even though I ride the bus home alone and watch the marina and big houses go by, there are ninth grade boys somewhere who may be thinking about me.

Even though Mom’s asleep and Dad’s at work, even though there are still boxes piled everywhere from the move, even though Mom’s too sad to cook and I eat peanut butter for dinner, and Dad doesn’t come home until the house is dark, and the walls are too thin to keep out the yelling, even though I can hear my mom crying, there is a girl somewhere who has my number. There are ninth grade boys who will want it. There are ninth grade boys who may be thinking about me, making me exist somewhere other than here, making me something bigger than the flesh in the corner of this room. There is a picture of me in their heads, a picture of someone I don’t know yet. She is not the chubby girl with the braces and bad perm. She is not the girl hiding in the bathroom at recess. She is someone new, a blank slate they have named beautiful. That is what I am now: beautiful, with this new body and face and hair and clothes. Beautiful, with this erasing of history.

© 2009 Amy Reed


Meet the Author

Amy Reed is the author of Beautiful, Clean, Crazy, and Over You. Originally from the Seattle area, she now lives and writes in Oakland, California. To learn more, visit her at AmyReedFiction.com.

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Beautiful 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 177 reviews.
AllEyesOnFiona More than 1 year ago
"Beautiful" is not just a good book to me, it's a treasure..I used to be a lot like the main character,Cassie. I got into the wrong crowd of people and my life began to fall apart. I was hanging out behind my school when my english teacher came up to me and handed me something...it was this book. I said, "What the hell is this? I don't have time to waste on this reading crap." She told me I had to read something, just one book to pass junior year. I threw the book to the side as she walked away..but when she was gone I picked it up and opened it. I never realized how the constant parties and trips to the basement were impacting my life...I always thought it was normal because everyone else was doing it. I liked having my head full of clouds. I liked feeling free and light....because if i couldn't think clearly then I was safe from all my problems..but this book made me realize that I was only hurting myself and the people around me....I didn't know their was a way out...but Amy Reed showed me that I didn't have to always be unconcious for my problems to go away.."Beautiful" saved me and I'm sure it will continue to save many more young girls..This is a must read book...
JessicaInclan More than 1 year ago
My mother was a librarian, and sometime in the summer of 1973, she handed me a novel that upset, intrigued, and convinced me so fully, I almost refused to go to middle school. She didn't really give the novel to me. She shoved it into my hands, insisting that I read it. That book was the novel Go Ask Alice, purportedly based on a teenager's diary. The story is, as we all know now, a vivid cautionary tale about drugs and their rabbit hole allure. But really, the most frightening aspect of that novel was that I understood completely why "Alice" wanted to be other, different, new. Her need made sense. It could be me. It would be me if I didn't watch out. It took me a few years to get over the reading of that novel, but when I opened to the first page of the novel Beautiful by Amy Reed, I was right back in my young self, reading Go Ask Alice for the first time. From the first pages of Beautiful, I was shouting to myself, "No! Stop. Turn around. You don't need Alex. Don't go with Alex. Stop." But the main character Cassie has to follow that white rabbit down the hole. This is her journey. This is the hole she has to fall into, taking us with her. And we want to go. Not really. Okay, yes, we do. We have no choice. Her loneliness and despair are ours or could be ours. Reed writes with clarity and a sure knowing of how damn bad that adolescent life can be. Cassie is the smart, formerly ugly "loser" who wants to change but then changes in a way she never imagined possible. We can only hope that as with the Lewis Carroll Alice, Cassie wakes up, wiser but no worse for wear. Reed writes with an immediate, first person present tense tsunami of adolescent pain and confusion. Cassie's story is one we understand but wish we didn't have to. But because we do understand, we want to follow Cassie all the way through to the truly climactic end. How easy it is for us to simply move onto a path that is wrong. At age 13, it is even easier, especially if the family system is broken, the child unmoored. Reading Reed's story might shake up a reader, much as Go Ask Alice did me. But that book and Beautiful are so worth the ride.
kadykatx3 More than 1 year ago
i just read this book a month ago and have read 3 since then. but my mind has only been on this one. the book is like a painting it paints every detail of Cassie's captivating life and i really felt what she felt. this book is one word; UNFORGETTABLE!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so sad. And to know that some kids are goong through this...... great book though
Myuhh More than 1 year ago
It was a little graphic.. but it was a very good book and I finished it in one day because of how amazing it was! :)
HK13HK More than 1 year ago
I am 13 years old and did not like this book. The main character, Cassie, surrounds herself with drugs and alchohol after making a new friend and trying to change her good-girl image.I can see how this book was trying to portray the idea of peer pressure and the importance of a certain "image", but I feel as a a young woman reading about a girl my age doing these disgusting things, that the in-detail description of a young girl constantly having sex and getting high is just inappropriate.Some of the things that went on in this book, such as sexual experimentation, drug and alchohol use, and eating disorders do occur in our middle schools today, but should not be read about by young kids. This novel is very raw and real, but can also be disturbing for some people. If I was a parent, I think I would not allow my kids to read this book. I'm not saying that all kids would be influenced by this, but I would say that if you are a parent considering giving this book to your child, think about your child's maturity level and how easily they get influenced or disturbed. I had to stop reading this book 3/4 of the way through because it made me feel sick. Please consider what I have had to say about this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very grabing loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is pure genius. It is simply stark. Beautiful. Once you start, you cannot stop. At certain parts
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
:) its really good!
brzybri More than 1 year ago
THis book was intense and left me speechless, i ended up yelling at her to go the other way. the only thing i didnt like was her age i mean i think she should have been a year or two older, But anyway you have to read this book, it pulls you right in. the whole time i was reading this book i felt like i was right there next to her. this book taught me to be myself and dont be anyone your not.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
BEAUTIFUL is a gripping, gritty, and realistic look into the life of a lonely girl finally shown some attention...albeit the wrong sort of attention. Cassie and her family have moved from Bainbridge Island to the Seattle suburbs. It's the start of seventh grade, and Cassie has grown into her beauty. The kids at her new school don't know who she was prior to the move. She starts to form tentative bonds with girls she would never have been welcomed to befriend at her school, when tough girl Alex grabs her from the cafeteria and instantly insists they be friends. She takes Cassie to where some of the older boys are hanging out during lunch, and Cassie is struck when the obvious leader of the boys calls her beautiful. It's from this point on that life spirals downward for Cassie. Though things with James quickly go sour, she is absolutely caught up in the limelight that surrounds the new boy, Ethan. And Ethan wants HER! He can even drive. Cassie does anything and everything Ethan asks of her. But it's the destructive relationship she has with Alex that does the most damage. Cassie literally does everything and anything in the pages of BEAUTIFUL. She goes from being the unnoticed nothing girl to the girl who has done acid, had sex, and dresses trampy, according to her father. Cassie's voice is almost defeatist in the way she acquiesces to everything suggested to her. It's not until she befriends Alex's half-sister that Cassie really starts to show any personality of her own. She finally learns to stand on her own two feet, ready to fight for what is right. There are only two concerns I have regarding BEAUTIFUL. The first is that I still am not sure who the intended audience of the book is aimed at. Though Cassie is only thirteen and in seventh grade, the language, drugs, and sexual situations are for a far older reader. Also, for those that require a definite backstory for Cassie (i.e.: how she came to be beautiful and why they moved from the island to the mainland), they won't find it here. Outside of those two concerns, though, BEAUTIFUL is definitely an eye-opening read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a 13 year old i can see how certain things can change a person. I dont understand why you would write something bad about this book if you dont like sex drugs or any other disturbing subjets DONT BUY THE BOOK there is description write in front of you so you know what the books are about that is really stupid to complain about what is in the book if you dont like thos subjetcts go find anther book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This could be a very good book but for adults not children. But i believe it was a good story overall.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a bit disturbing. Lets just start with that. The characters in this book did drugs, drank, and had sex at such a young age. There were times while I was reading when I said, "Why did I buy this exactly? This is seriously messed up!" But then there were times when I said, "Oh. This is why I bought this. Because it's good." At first, I felt like the main character, Cassie, was dull, and had no emotions. But by the end of the book, I felt as if she had them all along, and just didn't show them. Yes, this book should not be read by anyone under 13, unless, like me, they are mature for their age. I am 12, and I read this book without saying, "Oh my God!" At the er different parts, so other people should be able to, too. All in all, this was good book, about finding yourself and making the right choices.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Honestly, i started reading this book expecting so much and it was really a dissapointment. I completely undestand the rawness of covering such realistically explicit topics but other books have done it more justice than this one. I just cant stand characters who are completely emotionless and i felt like, through her, i was in a constant state of drug-induced stupor.
I-Am-Bunny More than 1 year ago
People should realize, it's raw. It gets down deep into the lives of people who've been into drugs. Somebody said it wasn't realistic? At my age, I was in her position. Not a virgin, involved with drugs. It goes into all that and some people can't handle it. It is very realistic and raw and gritty. The characters are so outspoken and well written, I actually *hate* Cassie. Cassie is a horrible person, but when I was her age I acted like her. So many of us know somebody like Cassie but don't even know it. I definitely recommend this to a teen, it's explicit but it will show you not to get into drugs and sex at such a young age. It will teach you a life lesson.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. This tells you really what ppl do to fit in and how life can change. It was the truth(da truth)! :)
Autumn Taylor More than 1 year ago
Kristen Huxley More than 1 year ago
This book changed my life. I think this could be one of my fav book. It just so.... amazing! Words can not describe how much i love this book!
Samantha Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
somepeople may find it way to graphic but it was one of the mist amazing books ive ever read. the sex. drugs arent, the whole point. the poin was howmuch t tok over her life and hiw a normal life is the bet to wish. it was using sarah as a way of proving that there aee things tha addictikn cat coe before, things you dont realize till it its gone. besides i like the way the book tells it th way it is!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can someone please lend me this book reply to Kay!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the worst books I have ever read. Goes on and on with nothing happening, then a worse ending. I will not buy anything more of this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book! It's real and it's serious, with sharp and sad twists and turns. It's heart wrenching and you begin to feel for Cassie as she spirals, it was GREAT.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ive been reading this book that i thought i would hate and it turns out that i love it. Amy Reed is now one of my favorite authors.