A summary of This Beautiful Life makes it sound like a ripped-from-the-headlines movie-of-the-week (or maybe like a tawdry daytime talk show episode). Fifteen-year-old Jake receives a pornographic email from a younger classmate, forwards it to his friends, and his life and his family member’s lives fall apart. It’s a novel about rich people in private school in New York City, it’s a novel about disaffected teenagers, and it’s a novel about the midlife crises of the parents. So why did this particular story work for me? Schulman tells the story from the perspectives of the parents, their son, and the young girl at the center of the scandal, and she gets their voices down. They are all imperfect, lonely people.
Why have I never read a book by Helen Schulman before? I gobbled this one up in just over a day. Her writing is so smart, the characters are so achingly and painfully real: it’s strange to say that it was a delight to read this book about a family falling apart during the teenage son’s sexting scandal, but it really was a great read.
THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE by Helen Schulman
Publication date: August 2, 2011