Everything Beautiful was one of the first books recommended to me for BI&SP Month, and was highly praised, so I knew it was one I definitely had to read. I'm so glad I did, it was just so positive!
This book isn't so much about body image or self-perception, but about self-acceptance in all it's forms; it's about truely being yourself and accepting who you are, as a person, as well as how you look. Riley is overweight, to the point where people make comments about it - but she doesn't care. She knows she's overweight, but doesn't have a problem with it; she accepts herself and, most of the time, has a positive body image. It's just so refreshing to find someone who's happy with how they look.
'As I walked away I tried to picture what they saw: my crazy curves, my straw bag swinging, my hat in my hand sweeping the air. I bet they'd never seen a big girl so confident. Boom-boom-BOOM. My mules clacked on the floor like castanets. Arriba!' (p54)
'I gave pretty good about owning my fatness, I could dress provocatively, and I only sucked my stomach in when I was squeezing past someone but for all my boldness I'd never actually showed myself to anyone - not completely.' (p111)Riley is also a bit of a rebel; she goes out of her way to annoy and anger those in authority and those who take the mick out of her size. Yet it's only when she makes friends with Dylan does she start to see things differently. These people aren't all that bad, the world isn't out to get her.
It's also great to get to see Dylan and how people react to him through Riley's eyes. This is his first time at camp since his accident. Hearing from others what he used to be like compare to how he is now, how people treat him, it's realy sad. He tries to act like he doesn't care, but Riley sees through it. As Dylan helps Riley, Riley helps him - accepts him for who he is, gets to know him, rather than just seeing a guy in a wheelchair. In each other, they find someone who understands.
Riley also has something brilliant to say about this subject herself:
'"It s***s me how everyone's so beautiful in the movies. The whole world wants to pay money to see beautiful people doing bad things. It's sick. Brad Pitt gets paid a fortune just because he has good genes...Awesome or what?
Also, I hate the way you never see fat people on the screen unless they're white trash or retarded or a criminal or all of the above. A fat girl on film is either there for laughs or to gross people out. Unless the film's about the fat girl's "journey" to social acceptance through weight loss. Where's the happy fat girl? That's what I want to know. Hmmph."' (p172)
I have to say, I wasn't too pleased with how it ended. It just seemed like I turned the page, and there was no more. It just seemed to finish so quickly, you didn't notice it winding up. I would have liked a little more. But overall, Everything Beautiful is a brilliantly postive novel that I'm so glad I've read. It's highly recommended!
Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me a review copy.
Published: 5th January 2009
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