Two Books About Beauty for YA Readers (and their moms)

I didn’t really say anything about it, but I did make some New Year’s resolutions. One, take more bubble baths. I think I’ve forgotten something critical about raising babies, and these last two of mine just can’t seem to manage to sleep without me. I think I’ve had maybe eight bubble baths in the last three years. It’s a worthy resolution, don’t you think? Sadly, I’m failing at it. Two, eat better chocolate. Something more decadent than Evie’s go-potty m&m’s. I’m failing here, too. But I’m knocking the third one – read more books – out of the park! This is mostly because I can read while I nurse Henry, or lay in bed with either one of them while they decide whether or not to sleep.

Specifically, I wanted to read more YA literature with an eye toward building up an interesting and edifying collection in our home library. Vampires and paranormal romances are out right off the bat, I’m afraid, which makes for some pretty slim pickings. However, one of my talents is finding great books.

Today, I’d like to offer a pair I chose for their perspectives on beauty:

Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy, features a very easy to love teen protagonist named Willowdean, but her mom calls her Dumplin’.  She’s overweight, but she’s grown up with the criticism of her beauty queen mother and the taunts of her classmates, and she’s got a pretty thick skin – until a cute boy takes an interest in her; then she comes unraveled.  In the course of finding her own self again, she deals with her mother’s hopes that she’ll lose weight, the death of her beloved aunt, who lived as a shut-in because of her obesity, and the limitations, real or imagined, imposed on girls and women because of their looks.

The other is The List, by Siobhan Vivian, and it is considerably darker.  It follows eight high school girls through the six days of homecoming week, from the day the list of the prettiest and ugliest girls in each grade is posted to the day the homecoming queen is crowned.  All of the girls and their relationships are altered by their status on the list – none for the better – and in the end, there is a sense of meaninglessness and emptiness that surprised me.

Both books deal with some pretty heavy themes, about the nature of friendship, the cruelties endured by those who fall outside the narrow lines of high school normal, and how our self-esteem is influenced by our appearance, or, more importantly, the way we think others perceive our appearance.  They both ask us to think about what beauty is, and who is defining it for us.

Both of these novels will be added to our library: four stars for the irrepressible Dumplin’ , and five for The List, which I will be thinking about for a long time.

My book rating system:
Five Stars: Have or want to read it more than once, or can’t stop thinking about it.
Four Stars: Definitely worth adding to the library so my other people can read it.
Three Stars: Entertaining, but not of any particular value beyond that.
Two Stars: Why did I waste my time on this?
One Star: Bonfire-worthy.

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4 Comment

  1. KristyB says:

    I’m excited to see your book reviews. I can maybe get thru a book a month at this point, but I want it to be worth my time and I value your insight, especially in this genre.

    1. Thanks! I’ll mostly be posting good-to-read reviews, but I have one negative coming up, because I’m only seeing positives on the ‘net, and it’s not as great as they’re saying. 😉

  2. What age do you consider to be YA?

    1. Well, I guess that would depend on the book and the child, but I’m going to say I’d be comfortable with these from about 14 years and up. Maybe 13, but I do so love to keep my babies sheltered for as long as possible. YA novels tend to have romance and/or sex themes, because that’s something teens are thinking about. I’m never going to recommend anything with graphic sex. I don’t think that’s appropriate for any of us to be reading. Both of these do include kissing, thoughts or talk about sex, and an implication that sex was had, but no description. Some people are comfortable with that at younger ages, so use your own discretion!

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