Thursday, November 20, 2008

Review: The Pretty One

The Pretty One
Cheryl Klam
2008; Random House; 978-0-385-73373-1 (paperback)

Summary: Megan's always been in the shadows. Overweight and unattractive, she sees her sister Lucy play all the leads in school plays while Megan works on the sets. But Lucy's a good sister, and Megan's got her best friend Simon. But after a horrible accident, Megan is suddenly "the pretty one". What does that mean for Megan? And for the people in her life--her parents, her friend, her crush, and her sister?

Two Things to Know About The Pretty One

#1: Beauty is more than skin-deep.

At first, being "beautiful" is all that Megan thought it would be. She can share clothes with Lucy, she gets attention from people who never noticed her before, and she suddenly is seen as an actress, not a techie. Best of all, it gives her the chance to get closer to Drew, the boy she's had a crush on for years. But at the same time, Megan starts to realize that being pretty leads to different problems. Lucy tells her she has to be extra-nice when she rejects a boy. Simon wants to date her now that she's pretty. And does Drew like her because she's got a new face? As Megan's mom tells her, sudden beauty means that Megan doesn't know how to deal with what comes with being pretty. So it all comes down to Megan figuring out who she is.

#2: Change is just as hard for others as for you.

Megan is faced with different challenges after she gets a new face and loses weight. Perhaps most complex is the way people react to her differently. Acquaintances suddenly want to be friends--or turn their backs on her. Boys notice her for the first time, drawn by her new appearance. Perhaps the biggest change is how her family reacts to her. Her father seems to have more time for her while her mother has less. And Lucy goes through a range of emotions: enthusiasm and support at first, slowly changing to resentment and jealousy. Yet all the while, they're still sisters. Even Megan's new beauty can't change that relationship.

Set in Baltimore, I admit that at first I was drawn to The Pretty One for this local connection. Yet I found an insightful look at sisterhood and beauty, giving full treatment to the impact of a sudden change on a relationship. A more glossy look at this issue was achieved in Fix by Leslie Margolis; you could also read Outside Beauty by Cynthia Kadohata for another perspective on the impact of beauty on a family.

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