THE BEAUTY THAT REMAINS, by Ashley Woodfolk, Delacorte Press


Music brought Autumn, Shay, and Logan together. Death wants to tear them apart.

Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.


I was sent this book in exchange for my honest review.

This is a tough subject to write well about without it becoming ‘preachy.’

Without going in to things too personal,  and it turning in to a “Wah, wah, wah, woe is me crap-party,” since we’ve all had a hardship or two in our lives, I’m sure… I’ll just say… from a personal experience when a loss occurs, having someone ‘preach’ to how “time will heal,” “…things would be different, if only…” “remember, you’re not to blame… it was their choice…”  or, my favorite, “you can’t control everything in your life, some things are meant to be…” is hard to take, let alone read about in some book.

This book, however, is not that.

To write such a book as one’s ‘Debut Book’ takes a lot of balls.  There are so many ways such a book can go wrong, yet in “The Beauty That Remains,” the author did such a spectacular job with the writing, that I will be looking for more of her work.

With that said, there were a few things I struggled with: the perspectives were not completely fleshed out to the point of pulling me in completely emotionally.  The writing was strong and eloquent and the use of diverse characters enjoyable and enlightening, but there just wasn’t enough of it.  I think if the book had an additional fifty to one hundred pages more, it would have been complete.

Because of the writing, the author was able to create a piece of literature that covers a difficult topic with an interesting layer of inner thought and insight.  How do you write a ‘good’ book about a ‘bad’ subject? Yet, it’s one that every living person must face at one time or another during their lifetime. Death is emotional, and final, and cannot be resolved.  All stories must have/show a resolution by the end.  So how does an author do this?  Well, I find in dealing with death there has to be a feeling of loss and this loss is based on the strength of relationships.  Therefore, the author must show the kind of relationship that will validate a loss and conjure grief as a result of this loss.  Then, the author must show why a loss of such a character would invoke the emotional depths necessary for the reader to be drawn in to the situation and feel the overwhelming emotional surge of grief also shared by the character in a fictional story.  This is extremely difficult to pull off.  Woodfolk does a good job.

In books about grief, there must be a resolution, a development to a better frame of mind through healing. A path to healing must be clearly shown and the journey along this path to self-discovery, propelled forward by a succession of events and discoveries has to be drawn out for the reader. One must understand the grief they feel, in order to turn it into something more.  Is there a reason you feel worthy of self-growth/enlightenment, self-repair, acceptance, and understanding? Do we grieve in order to heal? Is grief stemming from fear? Are we afraid to be alone? Is once having something/someone that made us happy suddenly gone, mean we are never to be/feel that happiness again? Is grief over death our way of feeling relief that suffering too has ended? This is what the author must succeed at building.

There are so many angles that need to be addressed and every scenario so exclusively different when concerning grief that great care must be taken when writing about it.

When doing this for a fictional story, you must ask yourself: Can I convince the reader, make them feel invested in the character’s relationship with the deceased plausible enough that what the character feels, the reader mimics. Is there a story arc here without making it sound like a ‘how-to’ book.

When writing three perspectives as Woodfolk did in “The Beauty That Remains,” there has to be a common element that brings these perspectives together in an easy to read fashion.   As the story progresses, you’ll discover the main link is music and Logan’s old band, “Unraveling Lovely.”

Backstory has to be realistic and in this case emotional, such as losing a twin… a carbon copy of yourself, the person who ‘understands you the most.’ Their relationship must be shown as special and unique, one of a kind, at least from the perspective of the main character. Backstory must be complete and it’s here where I feel Woodfolk failed the most.  I needed more to completely understand the importance of the relationship. I am not a twin, I do not have a sister.  I’m not the only one who fits in to this category.  So make me understand the link between the two, make me see how important a carbon copy is to each other and the special bond they shared. Show me how to be and what I should feel like as a twin so I can understand how it feels, the agony of having half my heart ripped from my chest, when my twin dies.

This can be the same thing between lovers, or best of friends.  Make me see, as the reader, what they saw, felt and reacted to. When this fails to be done, the story will thin out and become repetitive.

Realism surrounding outcomes of loss is as equally important. If the story is to succeed to the final resolution, there has to be a journey of healing shown. The journey must be realistic, believable that this is, in fact, how anyone would feel/act in the same situation.

Don’t shove a romance element in just to push the story forward.  The message sent is, in order to recover from grief of a loved one, you must find love.  Huh?  No, no, no… The last thing anyone who is suffering from grief  wants is to love someone else.  They want peace… understanding and finally acceptance of their new situation… the one now without the love they lost.

The most that Autumn would have wanted is a friend, someone to lean on, someone who understands and who is also facing the new situation of going on with life without the person they’d lost.  Someone to help get over the gap of loss to finding peace and  acceptance.

Not the easiest to write about but I give Woodfolk a lot of credit for trying and almost completely succeeding.

I gave this book:


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