Pretty Face by Mary Hogan (review copy) - That's what I am.
A funny girl.
The girl with the pretty FACE.
Hayley wishes she could love living in Santa Monica, blocks from the beach, where every day—and everybody—is beautiful and sunny. But she just doesn't fit in with all the blond, superskinny Southern California girls who have their plastic surgeons on speed dial. Hayley is smart and witty and has such a pretty . . . face. Translation: Don't even think about putting on a bikini, much less dating superhot Drew Wyler. A bikini will never be flattering, and Drew will never think of her as more than a friend.
Just when Hayley feels doomed to live her life in the fat lane, her parents decide to send her to Italy for the summer—not for school, not for fat camp, just for fun. It's there, under the Italian sun, that Hayley's vision of herself starts to change. She's curvy, not fat. Pizza isn't evil. And life is so much more than one-size-fits-all. Who knows? Once Hayley sees herself in a new light, maybe the girl with the pretty face will finally find true amore. From MaryHogan.com
I can't tell you just how sweet this book is! This really is such an amazing book! It's quick, it's light, and it's completely uplifting!
As the blurb suggests, Hayley is overweight, and unhappy about it. Her mother is pretty obsessive about Hayley losing weight, and kind of nasty with it - to the point where I wanted to strangle her. Hayley battles all the comments, and her own thoughts, with witty, hilarious comebacks. Her humour almost seems to be a shield she hides behind, which is so sad, but just so funny! Really, I was cracking up for most of the book.
But Pretty Face is also heartbreaking. Hayley is the girl with the pretty face, the comment always sounding as if that's supposed to be a consolation for her weight. Hayley feels so bad about the way she looks, and what that means for her socially and with guys really gets her down. Which leads to comfort eating, gorging when she's feeling down, yet ashamed of what she's doing.
'Flipping open my phone, I pretend to make a call. I wait for my pretend friends to pretend to pick up.
"Hi," I say into my dead phone. "I'm at the pizza place. What kind do you want?"' (p41)
It's just so heartbreaking! But then Hayley goes to Italy and is changed by the lifestyle there. The easy living, the culture, the buildings, the beauty. She slows right down, and discovers what really matters. The descriptions of the buildings, the landscape and the food are just awesome! You really feel like you're there with her, and it's just gorgeous!
'Something is happening to me. I'm accepting myself more. Maybe it's seeing the ruins of Rome and realising how briefly we're on this planet. Or maybe it's just Italy itself. From here, Southern California seems like a mirage. Why have I spent so many years obsessing over fitting into a mirage?' (144)
Then she meets a boy, Enzo. One of the great things I love about this book is that it's a book about body image that includes a romance, rather than a romance that covers issues of body image. Hayley already started to change her atitude and start to accept herself before Enzo came along, and I think it's brilliant of Mary to write the story this way; Hayley's issues are mental, it's her attitude and opinion that need to change, and she does this herself, without the positive opinion of others sparking the change. But Enzo's opinion of Hayley is a nice bonus, and the romance is just the sweetest thing ever! Really, this sweet young boy with his broken English had me sinking into my sofa, "aww"-ing.
'"Vespa?" I ask.
"How little?" I ask. "I have a Harley-sized butt."
You idiot! I scream in my head. No jokes!
Laughing, Enzo says, "You're funny," and my heart sinks. Here we go again. How could I have slipped back into being my old self?!
Reaching up to run one finger along my warm cheek, Enzo quietly says, "You have beautiful body of woman."
My eyes instantly flood with tears.
"I sorry," he says. "I say wrong thing?"
I shake my head no. For the first time, a boy's words are exactl right.' (p165)
'When I nervously asked if my body was okay, he answered, "No. It is perfect because it is the only house of you."' (p190)
Swoon-worthy or what? Pretty Face really is the sweetest story! It's just so cute, and just perfect in that Hayley's realisation comes about because of her own change in attitude. She sees herself differently through her own making, an it's just wonderful to see the change in her, and makes me hope this can happen for other other teenagers too. It's sweet and lovely, and at 202 pages it's a quick read everyone should pick up!
Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the review copy.
Published: 4th February 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
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Mary Hogan's Website