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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers learn a bit about the Indian American and Korean America cultures of the main characters.
It's important to be true to yourself. Friends and family members accept one another as unique individuals. They encourage and support one another's interests, talents, and identities.
Positive Role Models
Kavya's parents and most of the other adults in the book are overwhelmingly understanding, accepting, and encouraging of the teens' personalities, identities, and interests. Kavya and her three best friends value and support one another. When there's a rift in their group, they find a way to heal it collectively. Kavya and her sister Simran also work hard to understand, trust, and support each other again after growing apart. Ian is open with Kavya about the challenges of his anxiety.
There's diversity in ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Kavya is Indian American, and Ian is Korean American. Their close friends include teens who are Indian American, Mexican American, and Lebanese. Two of Kayva's female friends are dating each other, and her sister becomes involved with another woman. Ian's friend Rio is a trans boy who has two dads.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There are brief kisses among various couples and a few more passionate, extended kissing scenes between Kavya and Ian. There's an implied sexual encounter between two teens discovered putting their shirts back on at a party. Kavya mentions that her ex-boyfriend wanted her to perform oral sex. Teens use sexual innuendo to joke or tease. Kavya's sister Simran is considering different identifies and briefly discusses various types of romantic and sexual relationships with Kavya.
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Teens swear frequently, mostly "f--k" or "f--king" and "bitch," along with instances of "ass," "damn," and "s--t."
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Products & Purchases
There are many pop culture references, including movie franchises (Disney, Marvel, Lord of the Rings, Twilight), TV shows (Schitt's Creek, Sailor Moon, Vampire Diaries ) and musicians (Harry Styles, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift, Lil Nas, Imagine Dragons). A few specific books or authors are named, including Rick Riordan and Eoin Colfer. Characters frequently refer to devices and apps -- iPhone, iPad Pro, PlayStation, Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, Etsy, Pinterest, and more. Clothing, makeup, and scents are often referenced with name brands, including Ambercrombie & Fitch, Betsy Johnson, Chapstick, Sephora, MAC, Glossier, and more. Everything from cars (Toyota, Nissan, Honda) to home decor (Pottery Barn, Ikea) is described with brands.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A few kids are caught drinking at a high school party and are kicked out. There are references to beer, tequila, and "Listerine strips to mask your breath when you've been drinking something you shouldn't."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Beauty and the Besharam, by Lillie Vale, is a rivals-to-romance story that follows the adventures of Kayva Joshi. Seventeen-year-old Indian American Kavya is considered by some to be besharam: "Bossy. Audacious. Rude. Mouthy. Boastful. Shameless. Bold." Luckily for her, she's surrounded by loving and supportive family and friends who appreciate her personality and encourage her strengths. But she's still trying to figure out where she stands with Ian Jun, her Korean American childhood friend and biggest rival. Kayva's friends and family are diverse in ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. They're very accepting and supportive of one another. Ian's younger sister dies prior to the action of the story, presumably from a terminal illness after a long hospitalization. This is a romance, and there's hand-holding and kissing among opposite and same sex couples. There's also an implied sexual encounter between two teens at a party. At the same party, a few kids are caught drinking and are kicked out. There's lots of swearing, including :ass," "bitch," "damn," "f--k," and "s--t." The story is full of pop culture and name-brand product references.
Is It Any Good?
Kayva is a charming protagonist who stands up for others, reads voraciously, and has an amazing group of friends. Beauty and the Besharam is a fun, lighthearted romcom that celebrates self-acceptance and highlights diversity in ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This is a character-driven story focused on relationships. It will resonate most with teens who enjoy reading about friendships, family, and romance.
Given the title's play on Beauty and the Beast, there are many Disney references and lots of other pop culture references too. At times, the narrative and pace of the story is bogged down or sidetracked by numerous pop culture references, frequent naming of product brands, and extensive backstories on certain characters.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
Teen Romance Novels
Books with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Characters
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate