Saturday, July 13, 2013

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick

Every month, I look at Amazon's Best Books of the Month, and I try to read at least one each for YA and Middle Grade. Sometimes, this isn't a very appealing prospect, but I was pretty excited to read Gorgeous. It seemed like a perfect, breezy summer read.

Paul Rudnick
Scholastic Press, 2013
327 pages (hardcover)

It turned out to be something like Princess Diaries (Meg Cabot) meets Uglies (Scott Westerfeld), though leaning strongly towards Princess Diaries.

"When Becky Randle's mother dies, she's whisked from her trailer park home to New York. There she meets Tom Kelly, the world's top designer, who presents Becky with an impossible offer: He'll design three dresses to transform the very average Becky into the most beautiful woman who ever lived.
"Soon Becky is remade as Rebecca - pure five-alarm hotness to the outside world and an awkward mess of cankles and split ends when she's alone. With Rebecca's remarkable beauty as her passport, soon Becky's life resembles a fairy tale. She stars in a movie, VOGUE calls, and she starts to date Prince Gregory, heir to the English throne. That's when everything crumbles. Because Rebecca aside, Becky loves him. But the idea of a prince looking past Rebecca's blinding beauty to see the real girl inside? There's not enough magic in the world."

By far the most intriguing thing about this book is that Becky is transformed to look like the worlds most beautiful woman - but she doesn't exactly become her. When she's alone, looking in the mirror, she looks just the same as always. Maybe as a result of this, her super model good looks don't go to her head as much as you might expect, though she does grow more confident. Being so good looking means that Becky stops holding herself back because of her looks - something that, sadly, a lot of girls and women do - but when she meets Prince Gregory, she realizes that being pretty isn't a stand in for personality. I think that realization is essential to the success of the novel. The romance isn't realistic, but it's enjoyable to read.

(Highlight below to read on - contains spoilers)
Speaking of not realistic - I was really taken aback by the twist with Tom Kelly. I couldn't buy into that part at all. The combo of the magic dresses and the princess plot already had me maxed out on suspending my disbelief, and the whole ghost thing was too much.

It's an over the top book, no question. But... I enjoyed it. I was definitely rooting for Becky all the way. She is a funny, relatable narrator, and that means the book is pretty funny, too. Her best friend, Rocher, was downright hysterical. Their friendship is one of the only things that keeps the novel grounded. (I'm not saying it's enough.)

For me, this was the definition of guilty pleasure reading. I think there are a lot of people out there who wonder what their lives would be like if they woke up one morning looking absolutely stunning. Gorgeous gives us a chance to explore that possibility, ultimately reminding us (of course) that beauty is only skin deep.

The last word: With heart and humor, Gorgeous tells an engrossing, over the top story of transformation.

Grade: B-

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