Book Review: ‘Underneath Everything’ by Marcy Beller Paul

18336982Writing a review for Underneath Everything is even harder than writing an essay for English class. There’s so much to say about impeccable word choice and perfect poetic arrangement; about the complex characters and friendships; about the deep insights made; and about the themes of separation, reality, and love. What makes writing this review even harder is knowing that no review can capture the lush, darkly gorgeous essence of the novel.

Underneath Everything starts off at a bonfire that protagonist Mattie shouldn’t be at. But she’s a senior now, and she’s sick of missing things, and sick of steering clear of everyone except for Kris, the friend she dropped off the social scene with. But attending bonfires and parties comes at a cost — Mattie risks exposing herself to the beautiful and captivating Jolene and the stories Jolene weaves. She and Jolene were best friends, but their relationship was intoxicating and toxic to the point that Mattie and Kris had to walk away from her. But Mattie has a secret: she may have walked away from Jolene, but she never really left the stories, the magic, or Jolene herself.

Underneath Everything is a high level book. The intensity of the characters’ relationships rivals that of Karen Russell’s, the flowing yet sophisticated prose rivals that of Courtney Summers’, but Marcy Beller Paul’s layering of the present and the past, the real and the unreal, beginnings and endings, is on a level of its own. Through Mattie’s narration, the author explores what it means to be real and what happens when you judge the authenticity of someone who makes people into “fantasies” by the stories they weave. The depth at which such questions are explored is captivating and impressive.

The author weaves words not only to paint a burning friendship but also to render readers speechless. Marcy Beller Paul manages to capture everything ineffable about poisonous friendships we can’t get out of and the sheer meaning of what it means to be an adolescent. From the raw emotion to the lush physicality, everything about Underneath Everything is utterly surreal, and utterly phenomenal.

Honestly I don’t know how to gush over this book without being mushy or cheesy. Underneath Everything has just been the first book I’ve read in a while that speaks to me on multiple levels. And it’ll speak to you as well.

Rating: 10 out of 10
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (October 27th, 2015)
Length: 304 pages (Hardcover)
ISBN #: 9780062327215
Source: ARC kindly provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Valerie is sixteen. She attends a boarding school near Boston, where she writes, reads, and attempts to be a studious student. She's too lazy to write the rest of this bio, so follow her on Twitter @torquoiseworld because shameless self-promotion is alive and thriving!