An intense look at the rules of high school attraction -- and the price that's paid for them.
It happens every year before homecoming -- the list is posted all over school. Two girls are picked from each grade. One is named the prettiest, one the ugliest. The girls who aren't picked are quickly forgotten. The girls who are become the center of attention, and each reacts differently to the experience.
I waited a very long time to get my hands on this book, and I was not disappointed when I did. It was a really interesting and enjoyable read, I stayed up very late a couple of nights because I didn't want to stop reading it.
The story focuses on eight girls, which is a little confusing at first. I had to keep flicking back to the front page, where the list is written, to remind myself who is who. Although this sounds like a criticism, and is to a certain extent, I really don't see how it could have been avoided. You can't introduce these girls gradually, that would defeat the object, but it does take some time to get to know them. And, naturally, every reader will have favourites. I particularly liked Danielle, the freshman who is named ugliest, because she's not very feminine. I also found Sarah very relatable, the ugliest sophomore, who decides to give everyone what they want and become truly ugly. She writes the word across her forehead in permanent marker, and stops washing and changing her clothes to make a point. I just wanted to hug her, shower or not.
Of course, there are also going to be girls and storylines that don't resonate as strongly with reader, though I'm sure everyone will pick out different ones. I found Candace and Margot's stories and characters very similar, and was a bit disappointed by that. I also thought that the eating disorder wasn't handled very well. It was supposed to be subtle, I'm sure, to keep this from being The Book about the Eating Disorder - a book I would not have read because I'm not a fan of issues books - but I still don't think it was handled very well. I'd almost go as far as to call it irresponsible.
Overall, it was entertaining as hell and actually really made me think, which I didn't expect. Honestly, I was kind of expecting something light and fluffy, and I was pleasantly surprised. I came to really care about some of these girls and actually think about the standards of beauty that exist in the world, something that isn't banged on about. I would highly recommend this book, despite the presence of the evil sentence - Danielle lets out a breath she didn't know she was holding - at the top of page 178, a particular shame given that Danielle was my favourite character. But still, a great book.