08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Paranormal, Teen Books

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick, 336 pages, read by Courtney, on 08/23/2013

Becky Randle has not lived the most exciting life. She lives in a single-wide trailer with her 400lb mother. She works as a cashier in a failing supermarket. She has exactly one friend in the tiny Missouri town they live in. Becky doesn’t really ask for much, though she dreams of more.
When her mother dies, Becky discovers a name and a phone number hidden in her mother’s things. The name is Tom Kelly, one of the most prestigious fashion designers in the world. Against her better judgement, Becky gets in touch and is whisked away to New York where she is told by Tom and his handlers that, if she wears three dresses designed by him, she will become the most beautiful woman in the world. Becky is highly dubious, believing herself to be set up for some sort of embarrassing reality show or something of that ilk. When she looks at herself in the mirror, she sees bad skin, limp hair and a body she’s less than happy with. How can she possibly become the Most Beautiful Woman in the World (hereafter “MBWitW”)?
The first dress is red and Becky quickly discovers that it does indeed make her the MBWitW, but only when she’s with other people. When she’s alone, she looks like an overdressed version of herself. She eventually begins to get used to the adulation and creates a persona to match, dubbing herself “Rebecca” and reserving “Becky” for her non-MBWitW-self. Only after she realizes that Tom Kelly’s talents are indeed exceptional, she is presented with the other half of the bargain: she has one year to meet someone, fall in love and get married. If not, she’ll go back to being Becky forever. If she can make it happen, she’ll continue to be the MBWitW for the rest of her life. Her rise to super-stardom (because extreme beauty evidently becomes famous on its own) puts her in a position to meet plenty of potential princes to enable her “happily ever after”. Imagine her surprise, however, when a very real prince takes an interest. Is a year long enough to fall in love and get married? Can Becky really fall in love when she’s living her life as Rebecca? Who is the prince really in love with: Becky or Rebecca?
It’s an interesting enough premise, but it kind of felt like a mess to me. I get the message that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, etc., and that’s a good one to send to a teen audience. I just felt like everything was a bit of a stretch. Tom Kelly as a character is more than a bit perplexing. I’m not even entirely sure what he is, though he’s clearly modeled after Calvin Klein. Most of the characters have some sort of real-life counterpart, which points to satire, but doesn’t quite pull it off. While the twists in the book were surprising, I felt like they ultimately dragged it out even more. This really should have been a novella or a short story to maintain maximum effect, but at novel-length, it lagged in places for me. I had heard that this book was supposed to be really funny, but I wound up finding it a bit over-the-top, particularly when it came to Becky’s rabidly protective BFF. This one probably works for some folks, but I don’t think it was the book for me. Not bad, just not what I was hoping for.

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