Riley Rose, atheist and bad girl, has been tricked into attending Spirit Ranch, a Christian camp. There she meets Dylan Kier, alumni camper and recent paraplegic, who arrives with a chip on his shoulder and a determination to perfect all of his bad habits. United in their personal suffering and in their irritation at their fellow campers, they turn the camp inside out as they question the meaning of belief systems, test their faith in each other, and ultimately settle a debate of the heart.
'I don't believe anything good can come from this'.
The above sentence, my favourite from the book, sums up how I felt when I first saw Everything Beautiful. I loved the cover, but didn't like the sound of the story. I think the words 'Christian' and 'camp' were what originally put me off.
I'm now really glad that I gave it a chance, because it's a quirky and unusual book that carries some powerful messages.
The Spirit Ranch camp boasts an eclectic range of characters that you can't help but love. Bird, Sarita and Neville are particular favourites of mine, and I even liked Fleur towards the end. Riley and Dylan were complex and compelling characters, and were both immensely likeable from the beginning of the book. I liked that they just did whatever they wanted, and didn't give a second thought to what people might think of them. Their sarcasm was funny and relatable, and their outlook on life inspiring.
My favourite part of the book was the relationship between Dylan and Riley. I love how they came together and supported and helped each other, even though their personalities initially seemed mismatched.
The ending was bittersweet, and I can't decide whether I think Dylan and Riley ever saw each other again, or if those six days were their only time together. Either way, they both gave each other exactly what they needed: friendship, understanding and hope.
I suppose the message from this review is: don't judge a book by its blurb. Oh, and read Everything Beautiful, as it's not one to be missed.