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Reviewed by Chris Reed
Opening sentence
Thick sea fog rolls in before sunrise.
Josie Shapiro's award-winning debut novel 'Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts' is a poignant and captivating coming-of-age story about a young New Zealand woman's pursuit of her athletic dreams. The novel follows the life of Mickey Bloom, a self-described "midget" and dyslexic outsider who discovers a passion for long-distance running. Interwoven with the gripping tension of Mickey's present-day marathon is the heartbreaking chronicle of her formative years, marked by bullying, familial dysfunction, and the relentless pressure to conform to impossible physical ideals.

Tending towards older high school students, Shapiro's evocative prose wonderfully captures both the exhilaration and pain of athletic competition, as well as the universal challenges of finding one's place in the world. Mickey's journey is one of profound vulnerability, as she navigates the treacherous terrain of self-worth, body image, and the persistent misogyny that threatens to derail her ambitions. The novel's structure, with its shifting timelines, heightens the sense of anticipation and investment in Mickey's ultimate fate.

Ultimately, "Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts" is a remarkably empathetic and insightful exploration of what it means to pursue one's passions in the face of adversity. Shapiro has crafted an unforgettable protagonist whose resilience and humanity will linger with readers long after the final page.
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781991006448
Format: Paperback
Publication: 2023
Ages: 13+ to Adult
Themes: Running, dyslexia, bullying