Book Review: Hello Beautiful


Mackenzie Chin Sang, Staff

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano


“The stories and the people in them did sound remarkable. […] When Sylvie spoke their family history into the air, all she heard was love.”


Hello Beautiful is a tribute to the classic novel Little Women. One that was not needed. 


The book revolves around a man, William Waters, and four sisters: Julia, the eldest, Sylvie, the middle child, and two twins, Emeline and Cecelia. The four sisters are shown to have been very close all throughout their lives up until the moment we meet them.  


Through the meeting of the children–William and Julia’s romantic relationship that blossomed–William and the family, the Padavanos, become deeply intertwined with one another. William finds the love his parents never had for him in Julia’s family, even if it’s from a bit farther of a view. 


Unfortunately for them all, tragedy strikes the family: multiple times. 


It begins with their beloved father, and then carries along to the slowly diminishing family relationship they’d kept up in order to stay close. Through it all, the sisters stayed together like they always had, until things began to crumble between the main link of the older sisters. 


The book definitely had potential, and the plot had so much conflict, that it was hard not to finish it no matter how agonizing it may have been at first. The main contributor to reading the book is just getting to know how the family begins and how they end. How they manage to find themselves in so many different predicaments, and then try to come out unscathed as a family in the end. To see them try to stay together in the way they always used to is definitely something to look forward to coming out with. 


The main qualms I had about this book, especially at the beginning, was the writing style. The book is not written in a way that you are actually experiencing the story with the characters, despite it being written in present tense a lot of the time. We do read the characters’ reactions as they come, but they’re never actually written to their full potential. At the very beginning it was difficult to convince myself to continue, as reading it was droning and difficult because of how stale it was. After around 200 pages, it was a lot easier, because either I’d gotten used to the writing, and even maybe begun to enjoy it a bit because of the straightforward way of establishing everything, but also being able to convey the emotions it felt necessary; or, it may have been because of how the conflict had really begun to pick up.


Furthermore, on the steady gain of the plot, I honestly really enjoyed the sort of late start it had. Although, I do think that the main plot point she’d highlighted in the summary could’ve come faster in order to keep reader attention up, it was nice to have their background looked into more so we could’ve really understood the characters, and why certain betrayals were just more difficult to get through. It gave us a deeper meaning behind why things were so ramped up in the family, despite original insight on characters behaviors and interactions, and if anything, it made the ending all the more impactful. 


The characters themselves were a separate story. Despite hearing a lot of their backstory and getting in depth readings on who they are, and why they did what they did, and why they’re separate from who they’re compared to because they did this, and they did that, I feel that they were underdeveloped throughout most of the story. It was as if the author was learning the characters at the same pace we were, as if they hadn’t been given basic roles in who they were. The sisters especially I felt were not truly developed until halfway through the book even though we already knew them. I suppose you can attest those details to the fact that we see all three of them branch out and do things they’d never thought they could, but it wasn’t even the change in experience or personality that caused them to be so uptight, it was more of a lack of expression through the style of writing. In the end, I think the grasp on the characters was good, I just think maybe it could’ve been better if each sister wasn’t given a specific parameter of who they had to be, or maybe if they were explored more deeply, and not just on the surface. 


Overall, the book wouldn’t rank very highly for me, as it just wasn’t my personal cup of tea, but I could definitely see why it may have gotten the good reviews it did. If you enjoy a more non-fiction sort of writing style when reading fiction, I’d say you could easily get into this book. As someone who really just enjoys characters in books, and getting to know them in a more intimate way so that I can decipher why they’d do what they do, this book was both okay and terrible to read for that reason. In the end, it wasn’t all that bad, and although I have things to say about it, I loved how things were wrapped up, and I felt really relieved at how well everything had come together in the end without loose ends, or things to worry about, which is very hard to find in a book a lot of the time. 


The conclusion felt really refreshing, and honestly made the book worth it in the end; and, finishing the book made everything from the beginning to the end make a lot more sense, and really make that conclusion feel worth something. The book was a lovely read while it lasted, but I wouldn’t read it again, and I’d never recommend it to someone who really loves Little Women. I think they’d be very upset.