this beautiful life by Helen Schulman

Jake Bergamot is your typical fifteen year old.  Scratch that… Jake’s life might be better than average.  He lives with both parents who are still in love and married.  He has a little sister who is adopted from China.  He lives in a nice home in a nice neighborhood and has great friends.

Then one evening after returning home from a party and barely turning down one girls advances, but yes, still turning her down.  He turns on his computer and sees that this 8th grade girl, Daisy, has sent him a sexually explicit video, a dance of sorts.  Stunned and not sure what to think of this, he forwards the video to his best friend… who of course, sends it on to his friends, and so on and so on…

Within hours the video has gone viral and Jake and his family’s life have been turned upside down.  Jake is suspended from school and the students either look at him as a hero (the jocks, the rockers, the stoners) or as a real loser (the preppy girls – and most importantly the girl Jake really likes, Audrey).

Jake’s dad is asked to take a leave from his job just until things settle down, after all who wants to make business deals with the father of a son who is involved in a sex scandal.  Sex scandal?  All Jake has done is pushed forward on an email…

Jake’s mom takes to avoiding the public.  She can’t handle the whispers and instead finds herself in her home day and night, not changing out of her sleep clothes, and really not doing much of anything other than surfing the net on her laptop to see where the story of her son is falling next.

Where will it stop?  Will Jake’s momentary lapse of good judgement destroy his family in a world that is all too hung up on media and social networking?

When I initially read the synopsis of this book I knew I wanted to read it.  After all, social media is HUGE, and as much as I love being able to Tweet something funny, post a status update on Facebook of where I am having dinner and with who, and texting my friend to meet me at the gym… it also scares me a bit too…. how much is TMI?  How desensitized are we becoming when everything and anything is fair game to post for the world to see?

This Beautiful Life started slow for me… I picked it up. I put it down.  I picked it up again.  The beginning was confusing, didn’t seem to flow and I found myself back tracking to fully understand who these two kids were, why would you name your kid Coco and was she adopted?  Did I miss that, oh no – here it is, further in. 

And then suddenly, I broke through the books barriers and I was in.  I followed Jake to the party, I seen what happened… I understood what happened… and I was with him when he got the email.  I even understood why he passes it on… really what 15 year old boy wouldn’t, even if it was for a second opinion from a friend?

For the most part I liked the book and it felt real to me.  The few things that stood out that caused me trouble were occasionally it seemed like the narration wondered off into an over described scene that didn’t flow or an odd parental flashback, and I really never felt Coco was a developed character so not really sure why she was there.  At times, I forgot about her as the story mainly centers around Jake and his parents.

I feel the book had wonderful potential and hits on an all to real subject.  In fact there is a line on page 112 that really made me think..

“Is there an operative shame factor?  Or has the internet killed all that?  I mean, if everything that’s private goes public, is it still humiliating?”

The ending wrapped up suddenly and quickly.  This is a book I will think on for awhile, but I dont have a strong feeling on it now, one way or another.  There are parts I thought were extremely well done, and other parts that dont seem complete.

Amazon Review

Goodreads Rating

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for allowing to explore This Beautiful Life

13 thoughts on “this beautiful life by Helen Schulman

  1. I have seen a couple of movies that spotlighted “sexting” scandals, and it is very frightening to think of how far something like this can go toward ruining lives.

    Sounds like a cautionary tale. Thanks for sharing.

  2. It made me fear for kids who are so attached to electronic social sites and don’t always have the best judgement, like Jake. I understood why he did what he did but thought the book was exaggerated for effect. A couple months after reading it, I couldn’t honestly remember the story.

  3. I’m glad you stuck with it even though it didn’t capture your attention from the very beginning – sounds like it was worth reading once you got into it!

    Thanks for being on the tour Sheila.

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