Such A Pretty Face - Cathy Lamb
This will be a, largely, negative review. I just couldn't enjoy the book (I will get into why I say "couldn't" instead of "didn't" a bit later). The good things first- I liked the story line and the ideas behind it. I liked the abstract of the book- Stevie, her coworkers and her family. Her struggle to accept her new body. The execution is what I had a problem with.
I liked the good characters. It is impossible not to. The author paints them as such good, wonderful, and kindhearted people that you would have to be without a heart or brain to dislike them. She tells you over and over how good they are- sure she does show you how good they are (remember telling vs showing when writing?) but in between the showing, she interjects and tells you too. The bad characters are so thoroughly evil and bigoted it is unbelievable- and there are so many of them in Stevie's life. Her best friend might be the worst because we are suppose to believe that her cruelty stems from her jealousy (the author tells us as much) but it comes out that she has always been a terrible person (which undermines the whole jealousy angle). These characters are good vs evil- their is no grey (except for Stevie's mentally ill mother who gets a pass considering that she was so tortured mentally).
The result, of these contrasting characters, is that The reader is incapable of misinterpreting the characters because they (we) are never given a chance to interpret them. The characters actions don't speak louder then the authors words. Everything is explained, even during passages with heavy dialog, when information can be written in, the author is cutting in and explaining the reasoning behind the characters actions/words. The story is narrated by the main character, Stevie, so I guess you can say that Stevie interjects and explains everything (weather it needs explaining or not) except it doesn't feel like it is Stevie. I counted three times (3!!!- but their may have been more) where the readers are referred to as "folks", usually it's after one of Stevie's proclamations/observations (sometimes they are a page long or longer) that an extra sentence with "folks" is thrown in to sum it up. It took me completely out of the story.
There was even a part where the author Stevie stated out right that her garden was a metaphor for her life. I wanted to see the garden grow as Stevie grew but all we get are some scenes with her garden (insisting that she can't grow corn) and the author telling us that it stands for Stevie's life. And there was a part where Lance, Stevie's cousin (good guy), is telling her that he had a graphic designer make the invitations for his mother (Stevie's aunt- good) and his father's (BAD) anniversary dinner. He used the same graphic design for the invitations to his blowup doll buisness' launch party- a party that takes place the night after the anniversary party. Now I could see where this was going- and I was looking forward to it (an invitation mix-up in case you missed it). But the author proceeded to drop hints about what was going to happen instead of just letting it happen naturally.
I felt like I couldn't enjoy the book because the author wouldn't allow me to just read the story. She kept trying to make points without letting it come out naturally. When we learn that Stevie's cousin has an eating disorder (anorexia) we are told that their issues stem from the same problem- they both want some control. I would like to be able to see that for myself. unfortunately this book, which could have been amazing, doesn't reach it's potential because it lacks subtlety. People are never completely good, or completely bad we all have sides. Lamb doesn't show those sides and the book suffers.