What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty Girl is a coming-of-age novel about an African-American teen in 1980s Brooklyn who is physically and emotionally abused by her mother. Faye navigates a violent, uncaring world largely on her own, has very low self-esteem, and is envious and resentful of others. The novel reinforces the ideas that beauty is the only benchmark of good and that ugly people are undeserving, and it includes many disparaging, negative descriptions of overweight people. Teens with fragile self-images may need help understanding these pervasive viewpoints and balancing them against their own positive traits. There's some deep kissing and some violence: Faye, her friends, and her mother all engage in hitting and punching, and Faye's mother beats her with an extension cord. And in a pivotal incident a woman is knocked unconscious and abandoned. The only strong language is "s--t" and "hell."
What's the story?
Growing up in Brooklyn in the '80s, abused high school freshman Faye eventually befriends an elderly mugging victim she thought she might have killed. As the friendship develops, Faye is able to move away from the negative influences and problems in her life toward the positive by making better choices and controlling her behavior.
Is it any good?
Faye's hard life is powerfully conveyed. There are enlightening, age-appropriate explanations of how exactly low self-esteem can lead to promiscuous behavior and how stealing and violence can be about trying to gain power in society instead of about needing money.
Over the course of REVENGE OF A NOT-SO-PRETTY GIRL, Faye matures to a remarkable degree, and it appears to she's going to be much better off than we could have expected. But she thoroughly buys into the beauty myth that girls have to be good-looking to succeed, and nothing in the book suggests she may be wrong about that. No alternative ways women might have value to society are offered, and the point is driven home when Faye finally begins to feel better about herself after a boy tells her he thinks she's pretty.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about "the beauty myth" that girls have to be considered pretty to be happy and successful. How does the cover picture of the girl together with the title make you feel about your own looks?
Faye acts out against girls she thinks are richer and prettier than she is. Why not the boys, too? Why wouldn't they deserve the same treatment?
Faye thinks she'd be a lot better off if she were more attractive. Are there other ways she might feel valuable and worthy of good things, both to herself and others?