Fairest of Them All by Jan Blazanin (review copy) - Oribella Bettencourt has the world at her feet. She's won the Crowning Glory pageant title, due in part to her lustrous blonde mane of hair, and has just snagged a role in an upcoming movie opposite a hot young star. Sure, she doesn't really have any friends at school, but that's okay - she has her mother, a frustrated beauty queen herself, and she has her brilliant pageant and acting career. She doesn't need anything, or anyone, else. At least, that's what she tells herself. Then clumps of her beautiful blonde hair start falling out every time she brushes. Or showers. Or does just about anything. The horrifying word comes down: she has alopecia, a rare condition resulting in hair loss. She loses her movie role. The Crowning Glory title is taken away from her. And her mother can barely bear to look at her. Now, outcast and alone, all Oribella has is herself - and that simply isn't enough. When, to her surprise, she begins to develop an unlikely friendship with a tomboy classmate, she realizes that for the first time in her life she may just figure out who Oribella Bettencourt really is without her crown - and what truly matters in the end. From Amazon UK
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this book! It's not what I was expecting at all, but it was fantastic! I am just so, so glad I got to read this book! It has some really important things to say!
Oribella is blonde and beautiful. She's a model, an actress, a dancer, and a has won several beauty pagents. So this means she's a stuck up, nasty queen bee who rules the school, right? Wrong! Ori is socially awkward, she has no friends, and has barely a minute to herself; when she's not at school she's going to modelling gigs, or dance classes, or preparing for the beauty bagent or her audition for an upcoming movie role for a modern day princess. This girl doesn't stop! It's something I would have thought was suffocating and a lot of pressure, but Ori thrives on it! And, being inside her head, you can see she's a nice girl - yet she's bullied.
So there are our first stereotypes out the window. This beautiful girl is good and nice, isn't scared of hard work, but isn't good at making friends, and bullied for what people perceive about her - like we just did. The only person she has is her mother.
'At Highland High I'm a disease nobody wants to catch. The girls hate me, the guys avoid me, and the teachers think I have a single digit IQ. It's hard to concentrate on my studies in the face of so much blind adoration.' (p15)
People look at her, make these assumptions about her, or smother her in compliments - yet it's wonderful to see that this beautiful girl isn't completely shallow either:
'Most people act like beuty is something I've accomplished. But's no different from congratulating me for having eyebrows or a nose. I'd rather be praised for mastering a tricky dance step or earning a C - if that's possible - in math.' (p13)
But then Ori's world gets turned upside down when she starts suffering from alopecia - a condition which causes your hair to fall out. The part she got in the movie is taken away from her, her agent dumps her which means no more modelling or acting parts, she can't face going to her dance classes with the hair the way it is, and her mother stops talking to her. She loses everything. And the bullying gets worse.
'"Just don't expect anyone to feel sorry for you - because they won't. The queen fell off her pedestal, and the peasants are cheering."' (p154)
But she gains the world. I won't spoil the story, but in a way, Ori getting alopecia is the best thing that could happen to her. When she finally snaps, and rants at Phil (short for Philomena), a jock on the girls volley ball team and daughter of Ori's ex-agent, she finds someone who will listen, and who starts to understand. Through this one friend, so many other things open up to her. She experiences more, she does more, she realises more. And it's wonderful to witness this transformation.
Is there a happy ending? It really depends on what you would consider to be a happy ending for someone like Ori, but I believe there is. Fairest of Them All is such an uplifting and positve book, and I couldn't recommend it enough! It's absolutely brilliant, and so great to see that the "negative" causes the "positive" this time round. Such a fantastic novel, everyone should give it a read!
Thank you to Jan Blazanin for sending me a review copy.
Published: 18th May 2009
Publisher: MTV Books
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