Hideous Beauty by William Hussey

by Gurpreet Sihat

With Hideous Beauty not due for release until June 2020, I don’t want to say too much about this brilliant little book, but I’ve been desperate to write something about it since September 2019, so here are my spoiler free thoughts: 

When it comes to books, my go-to’s are usually YA fantasies (as a writer of YA fantasy, I count it as research), standalones I believe I may somehow relate to (last year this was mainly East-meets-West novels by authors like Sandhya Menon), or inspirational non-fiction by people I admire (Oprah, Matt Haig, Queer Eye’s Fab 5, to name a few favourites). So, an LGBTQ standalone romance-mystery by an author who is known for his dark fiction isn’t something I would normally pick up. Thankfully, Usborne gifted me an ARC of Hideous Beauty, and it was perfect when I was desperate for a short, easy read that I could get through when I had limited reading time.  

After a video exposing Dylan and Ellis’ secret relationship surfaces online, Dylan is forced to come out. To his surprise, they’re met with support. But their happiness is short-lived. 

One minute they’re driving from their school dance to a romantic picnic for two, the next they’re stuck in a car, drowning in Hunter’s Lake. Somehow, Dylan is pulled free of the wreck and saved. When he wakes, he realises that Ellis has been left to drown.

Grief-stricken, he vows to discover what happened to Ellis that night, and piece together the final months of his boyfriend’s life. In the process, he realises just how little he knows about the boy he loved… and everyone else in his life. 

Hussey gets straight into the action, beginning with Dylan coming out to his family and moving straight into Ellis’ death. From there, the chapters alternate, switching between Dylan and Ellis’ meeting and the events that lead to the start of the book, and Dylan’s investigation into Ellis’ death. It creates the perfect balance between romance and mystery, with a helping of unease and the unearthing of harrowing discoveries. 

For me, the characters and their relationships are definitely the best part of the novel. While it’s Dylan we’re put in the shoes of, it’s Ellis who we all want to be – unashamedly himself, ready to stick up for what he believes in with little care of what other people think – and Mike we all want as our best friend – someone who loves Dylan for who he is, regardless of everything and anything else. All three come from different backgrounds, different family dynamics. Their struggles are different no matter how alike they are, they each have different ways of dealing, of coping.

Hideous Beauty is a brilliant reminder that regardless of our orientation, our race, our gender, our upbringing… how much we have in common, how little we have in common… we are all different, we are all the same, we are all dealing with things, and we all need to be there for each other without judgement. For that alone, this is definitely one to keep your eye out for.

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