White Trash Beautiful by Teresa Mummert
A word-of-mouth bestseller that’s captivating readers with its honesty, grit, and headstrong heroine, White Trash Beautiful is a story for anyone who has ever felt trapped in life, cheated by love—and longed for something more . . .
Cass Daniels isn’t waiting for her knight in shining armor. She knows that girls like her don’t get a happily ever after. Not if you live in a trailer with your mom, work at a greasy spoon diner, and get leered at by old men. Maybe that’s why she puts up with Jackson—her poor excuse for a boyfriend, who treats her like dirt. Cass has learned to accept her lot in life. That is, until he walks into her diner. . . .
His name is Tucker White, and he’s different from any man Cass has ever known. Tall, tattooed, and bad-ass gorgeous, he’s the lead singer of the rock band Damaged. From the moment they meet, Tucker sees something in Cass he just can’t shake. Something beautiful. Something haunted. Something special. And he’s determined to find out what it is—if only he can get her to open up and let him in. . . .
white trash: poor, uneducated Caucasians. They live in filth (e.g. rusting cars and old kitchen appliances fill the front yard,) they are poorly educated, they don’t care about their appearance (e.g. they are poorly groomed and overweight, wear dirty and tattered clothes,) etc. Though “white trash” can live anywhere, they are indigenous to the Midwestern and southern United States.
— Taken from the Online Slang Dictionary http://onlineslangdictionary.com/meaning-definition-of/white-trash
Teressa Mummert blends in many of the “white trash” stereotypes into her story about a poverty stricken young woman who still has a spark of hope for a better life. I had to sit back and think about this story a bit before I could write this review because I wasn’t sure how I felt at the end. There were aspects about the protagonist, Cass Daniels, that left me feeling frustrated and conflicted while at the same time, I kept trying to justify her thoughts and behavior because I wasn’t walking in her shoes.
Mummert does a great job of setting a dreary, pessimistic tone in the first scene, even in the first sentence. She creates a disheartening, discouraging environment where it is easy to feel “beaten down” and hopeless.
The story is told in first person from Cass Daniels’ POV. Cas has managed to squash down the sadness, frustration, and anger that pervade her existence, but those feelings are still simmering at the surface. Cass is a fighter, though; she still tries to push back and refuses to be a victim. Mummert is successful in showing that it’s hard to fight the urge to feel like a victim, and, at times in the story, I see Cass slipping into that role.
The setting of the story takes place around the Savannah, Georgia area, and I can’t help but note the significance and symbolism of this setting. Savannah was burned long ago, but has risen and is now thriving. Cass lives in a tiny town on the outskirts of Savannah with limited opportunity to visit. How apt, Savannah is where Cass should be, but it’s still out of reach, still unobtainable, just like her dreams.
Cass is a realist; she knows there is no “knight in shining armor” going to ride in and rescue her. She knows that knight is never coming her way, but she still is able to acknowledge he’s out there. She still holds on to hope. Ironically, a dark-haired, blue-eye knight does arrive at the restaurant where she works. However, he’s on a motorcycle instead of a horse, and his armor has been replaced by worn-out looking jeans and a tee-shirt saying, “I’m with the band.”
Cass is wary of Tucker. Men like him only flirt with women like her for a good time, never for anything serious. It’s easy for Cass to think that men see women as whores, and I can understand her faulty thinking since she grew up with a mother who sold her body as a way for the family to survive.
Tucker is extremely interested in Cass and isn’t deterred by her brush-offs. He keeps grinning and telling her, “I like a challenge.” Tucker’s POV isn’t given in this story, and I see advantages and disadvantages in doing this. On the one hand, Mummert keeps the reader guessing about his attraction to Cass. Is she just a conquest for entertainment, or does he really care about her?
When Tucker finally tells Cass the story about his childhood, his motivations become more believable to me. On the other hand, by not getting his POV, Mummert misses the opportunity to fully develop his character.
Tucker’s last name is White, and only upon my second reading did I catch the symbolism of this. Tucker grew up in similar circumstances to Cass, but, now he’s a rising rock star on his way to success, the implied label of “trash” has been dropped. Furthermore, the name of his band, “Damaged” certainly applies to the majority of the characters in this story. These symbolic names just reinforce Mummert’s theme of never giving up because you can overcome the obstacles in your path to happiness.
The central conflict in the book is whether Cass is courageous enough to pursue a brighter future. Cass is tethered to her past by her drug addicted boyfriend, Jackson, and her mother who seems to have given up on life and uses drugs as a form of escape. Meanwhile, Cass is desperately trying to make things better. She works tirelessly to save money to escape their run-down trailer and her dead-end job. She keeps her savings hidden so that Jackson and her mother can’t steal it to buy more drugs. I applaud her efforts until I realize she still has this grandiose idea that she can take her mother and Jackson with her, and then everything will work out. Cass doesn’t realize that you can’t help those who refuse to be helped and to try to do so will only end in disappointment.
Cass doesn’t love Jackson and perhaps never did. How can you love someone who physically abuses you and tells you how worthless you are? Although Cass presents a tough persona to the outside world, she is weak around Jackson. She allows him to hurt her. Even though her behavior may seem confusing, it is typical of abused women to do this.
Jackson definitely fits the profile of an abuser. He’s insecure about his manhood, so he puts Cass down to make himself feel better. He uses her to lash out at a world that has finally broken his spirit.
I really wanted to despise Jackson, and by the end there is no doubt that I did. However, he wasn’t always this way or Cass wouldn’t continue to have him in her life. When she was younger, he played an important role in protecting Cass from school bullies and her mother’s frequent “boyfriends.” He helped support Cass and her mother financially after their father abandoned them. Unfortunately, he was sucked into world of drugs, and now he is nothing more than a slave to its destructive power.
His hateful words and Cass’s willingness to believe them remind me of this quote from the movie Pretty Woman:
This book reminded me in some ways of Pretty Woman. The stories are completely different, but both Cass and the main character in the movie have the same defeatist attitude at times, and, in both cases, it takes a man to awaken them to the possibilities that await them and to nudge them to move forward.
Cass is drawn to the love and affection that Tucker offers her, yet she refuses to embrace it because of some misplaced loyalty to Jackson and her mother. Much of the book focuses on her inner conflict over believing her current life is what she deserves versus reaching out to Tucker and all the promise and goodness he represents.
I admit, at times, I think she brings some of the heartache on herself. Her fear and guilt cause her to be indecisive throughout much of the book, and the tragedy that ensues is devastating.
The book is a swirl of darkness and light, hopelessness and hope.
Cassie deserves happiness
and in the end, she puts faith in herself and works hard to find that HEA.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Teresa Mummert is an army wife and mother whose passion in life is writing. She is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novels White Trash Beautiful and Suicide Note. Born in Pennsylvania, she lived a small town life before following her husband’s military career to Louisiana and Georgia.
Music to Complement Book
Katy Perry “Not Like the Movies”
Linda Ronstadt “You’re No Good”
Hunter Hayes “Wanted”