A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality is a contemporary young adult novel that is appropriate for older tween girls, because there's no graphic language or sexuality. The main character does think about her first kiss and even making out, but the actual kissing scenes described are tame enough for tweens to handle. The protagonist and her mother have a poor relationship, and it's clear the mother favors her younger daughter, a 7-year-old beauty pageant contestant. A major character's name is an obvious reference to Taylor Kitsch's Friday Night Lights character.
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What's the story?
Lexi is the kind of 16-year-old girl who is known for her great personality: She's funny and clever, and has two fabulous best friends. As for beautiful, that label is reserved for her spoiled 7-year-old sister, Mackenzie, who competes in beauty pageants all around Texas nearly every weekend. She has a secret crush on Logan, the boyfriend of a teen pageant princess. Lexi's never been kissed, and is not the kind of girl who attracts male attention. After her best friend Benny, who's gay, dares her to wear makeup and form-fitting clothes for a week, Lexi discovers she can be that girl. But beauty comes with a price, and REVENGE OF THE GIRL WITH THE GREAT PERSONALITY shows how Lexi's identity and her relationships, especially with her sister and pageant-addicted mother, changes -- and not necessarily for the better.
Is it any good?
Eulberg's novels, like Prom and Prejudice and The Lonely Hearts Club, tend to feature girls who are pretty clueless about guys in one way or another, and Revenge is more of the same. Lexi is sweet and smart, but because she doesn't attempt to wear makeup or curl her hair, she's largely unnoticed in the sea of Texas cheerleaders and pageant girls. But once she has her makeover and -- voila! -- becomes "hot" in the eyes of her male classmates, all of a sudden Lexi feels better about herself, lands a gorgeous boyfriend, but is still unsure of whether she "deserves" the attention, since it's based on her looks and not her personality.
The first half of this novel is great. Lexi's life is fascinating -- a supersized divorced mother whose only outlet is her 7-year-old daughter's pageants; a baby sister who gets all the attention; best friends who can't wait to escape to New York City with her; and she's genuinely likable. But once she's prettified, things take an angsty turn both between Lexi and her family and in terms of her own self-esteem. Instead of enjoying her attentive new boyfriend (FNL-named Taylor Riggins), Lexi continues to obsess over the unavailable Logan and second guess everyone's motives toward her. Although this is a safe read for even young YA readers, the messages about beauty, family friendship should be discussed long after the book ends.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss the premise that girls can either be beautiful or have a great personality, or that high school is like one big beauty pageant. Do you think these assumptions are true?
Why is the world of beauty pageants so fascinating? Does the book take a particular stance on pageants? Do you think the Mackenzie subplot was influenced by the popularity of Toddlers and Tiaras and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo?
How is the relationship between Lexi and her mother portrayed? What do you think Lexi should have done after her mother betrays her trust?
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