Source: Review copy from publisher through the author's blog tour invitation.
Back Cover Description:
Her friends once thought she was perfect. Now she must face the mirror--and herself--to discover what true beauty is.
Ellie Summerfield has everything a girl could want--she's beautiful, she's Senior Class President, has a calendar full of social engagements, volunteer commitments, and church activities. In short, she's perfect, according to most of the students at West Redding High School. But something is bothering Ellie, like a loose string on a dress she can feel but can't see. Does she really love her boyfriend, Ryan? Who are her true friends? And is she really happy in her picture-perfect life?
Then in the course of a few minutes, the loose string in Ellie's life completely unravels. Forever changed, she must face herself as she discovers what it really means to be beautiful.
Beautiful is a young adult novel that has some romance. Adults will also enjoy this story. The novel asks the question, "Where does a person's worth come from? What happens when you peel back the trappings of a person's life and expose what's left?"
While mainly about Ellie, the story also revolved around her sister, Megan. Ellie and Megan appear to be exact opposites. Both are forced to face the core of who they are in a way neither expected. (I normally don't like back cover descriptions that refuse to say what the pivotal, life-changing moment is in the story, but the author handled this surprise so well that I'm not even going to hint.)
I cared about the characters. They were complex and faced realistic, tough struggles. I was left feeling like these characters really existed somewhere and had lived through this. The pacing was very good, and I had a hard time putting the book down because I wanted to know what happened next. The wording used in the story seemed a bit formal compared to what I'm used to in YA novels, but it fit Ellie.
I wouldn't really call this a Christian novel as there was very little "God talk," but God was mentioned here and there. In fact, I felt it could have used a bit more explanation. It was clear why Ellie began to doubt that God cared about or even paid attention to the details in each person's life, but I didn't quite follow why she changed her stance to what it was on page 258. Anyway, I think most Christians and non-Christians would enjoy the book.
There was no sex. There was minimal bad language of the "she cursed" style. While many of the teen characters drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes, and smoked pot, Ellie didn't drink or do drugs. Overall, I'd recommend this novel as well-written, clean reading.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt from Chapter One
The Anonymous Blog about Life at West Redding High
Why would you ever want to be like Ellie Summerfield? Because she's popular, pretty, and--what are other P words?--how about punctual, prudish, pre-law (perhaps), perky, practical...All I have to say is: predictable! How does Ryan Blasin stand someone so--this is the exact word for Ellie Summerfield--perfect. Wanna bet she'll be back to school after her grandfather's funeral today? Just watch and see.
People were staring at Ellie as she turned the combination on her locker. She looked down and cringed. She'd meant to change from the black skirt and blouse into jeans, but the compulsion to get away had made her forget. Was that why they were staring?
"Who comes back to school after a funeral?" Vanessa opened her locker beside Ellie's.
"A person who has a calculus test sixth period and a student council meeting after school."
And a person who needs to escape her family for the rest of the day.
Ellie stared into the abyss of her locker. She really needed to reorganize. Papers stuck out from the tops of books. Her planner was missing from where it usually resided for quick reference.
"You are mistaken, Miss Summerfield. No one comes back to school after a funeral. A funeral is a free pass out of everything."
"Not everything," Ellie said and recognized how lame her defense sounded. She moved her chem book in front of her history book. She liked to keep them in the order of her classes.
"Did your sister come back to school? Of course not, and you know I never side with the sister from the dark side. Either you're more obsessive-compulsive than usual or... Oh, please do not tell me that you are organizing your locker--again. Take a peek into the world of the normal teenage life."
Vanessa flung one arm toward her open locker, which overflowed with everything from papers and books to nail polish and some sort of leftover food item that Ellie didn't care to see more of.