Book Review // A Messy, Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Alan

Book Review // A Messy, Beautiful Life by Sara Jade AlanA Messy, Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Alan
on October 2nd 2017
Rating: five-stars
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Humorous, Black Comedy, Young Adult, Performing Arts, Theater, Social Themes, Death & Dying, Romance, Romantic Comedy
Pages: 239
Buy: Hardback/Paperback|Kindle
Find on Goodreads
Synopsis:

Life is funny sometimes.

And not always the ha, ha kind. Like that one time where a hot guy tried to kiss me and I fell. Down. Hard. And then found out I had cancer.

I’m trying to be strong for my friends and my mom.

And I’m trying so hard to be “just friends” with that hot guy, even though he seems to want so much more. But I won’t do that to him. He’s been through this before with his family, and I’m not going to let him watch me die.

So, I tell myself: Smile Ellie. Be funny Ellie. Don’t cry Ellie, because once I start, I might not stop.


Ellie is a seventeen-year-old whose only care in life is doing an improv/comedy show just announced that could win her and her improv group a spot on Comedy Hub’s website and $500 to split between them. What she doesn’t expect is that a fall at a party will lead to finding out she may have cancer and the options for treating that cancer aren’t as straightforward as expected.

A Messy, Beautiful Life is one of those books that makes you laugh AND cry. Cry because while it’s stupid to say someone doesn’t deserve cancer, Ellie really doesn’t, and laugh because Ellie is exactly the right type of main character to kick cancers ass and have fun with it as well. I know that if I learned I had a rare form of cancer tomorrow, I would take to my bed for the foreseeable future. I most certainly would not turn it into an amazing stand up routine. That’s where Ellie and I differ, because while learning she may have cancer knocks off her equilibrium, she doesn’t let it overtake her life the way I would.

Helped along by new crush Jason, swoon, step-brother Craig and her friends Quinn and Hana, not to mention her brilliant mom, you can see why Ellie is the way she is, she has tons of support, and the best relationship in this whole book for me was that of Ellie and Craig. At the beginning, they don’t really get on – Ellie doesn’t like being referred to as his sister and keeps her distance, but the diagnosis pushes them together and Craig becomes such a pillar of strength coming around with anime and cereal to keep Ellie’s spirits up and helping create their skit for the improv show. It was so nice to see step-siblings who got on, even if it took a cancer diagnosis to do it.

Now let’s talk about Ellie and Jason. Excuse me while I swoon. Their first interaction is at the initial improv show, where they do a Freeze skit and their bodies are just so in tune with each other and that leads to the inevitable party where Ellie does a swan dive off some stairs and their relationship just goes from there. It was so easy, so believable and just when it might have gone into eye-roll territory with Ellie proclaiming she wasn’t going to tell Jason about her diagnosis, because his mom died of cancer, it got pulled back because she didn’t do it. It was just so mature, so romantic, so adorable. It made me extraordinarily happy.

I genuinely loved A Messy, Beautiful Life. Craig says in the book that you have to carpe diem the Crap out of life and he couldn’t be more right. This book is all about carpe dieming it and I loved that. The writing is gorgeous, but easy and relateable at the same time and the use of improv was spot-on. I just loved everything about this book – Sara Jade Alan has written such a wonderful, uplifting read. Ellie could have done the complete opposite of everything she does in this book if she’d been a different person, but I loved the person she was and the story we got, cancer isn’t always a death sentence and I liked this somewhat lighthearted look at it.

five-stars
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