Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality
New York: Scholastic Books, 2013, Ages 14-18
Lexi, a junior in high school, works hard at her job to help support her younger sister, Mackenzie, and single mother, though she is frustrated with their expensive beauty pageant habit. Longing for the visibility enjoyed by the more popular girls at school, Lexi takes some hints from her younger sister's personal beautician and learns some lessons about what beauty means- and doesn't- along the way.
The novel is written in the first person, so readers know what Lexi is thinking. It is also entirely in the present tense, which is fairly unusual and gives a sense of being in the story as it happens. I like the realism of this book as a whole. The tension in Lexi's dysfunctional little family comes out loud and clear, particularly between Lexi and her mother. Lexi's character manages to sound put-upon without coming across as cloying or overly pessimistic, and the compassion she has for her younger sister shines through beautifully. Their love/hate sibling relationship rings true to me, even though I have never been in Lexi's particular situation, and I appreciate the author's ability to forge connections with readers.
There are no illustrations except for the cover. The title is written in dark red lipstick against a white background. The lipstick tube lies at the bottom, and symbolizes the extent to which appearance is emphasized in the book, whether it is in Mackenzie's beauty pageants, her mother's insistence on appearing like she has everything together, or with Lexi herself.
Since the protagonist of the book is halfway through high school, I would recommend this book to upper junior high students and high school students. Those who are interested in beauty pageants (positively or negatively) will probably enjoy this character's "outsider" take on them. One of her friends, Benny, is gay, but to be honest, the character feels token and out of the blue, as though he is only in the book because Ms. Eulberg's editor strongly recommended that a gay character be added in order to emphasize awareness. That said, the author manages to devote too much time to Benny's subplot to the point of taking away from the main storyline, and those who are uncomfortable may shy away from that part of the story. Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was heartfelt and funny and sad, sometimes all at once.
Reviewed by Abigail Kruse