Monday, May 20, 2013

Gorgeous, by Paul Rudnick- Review

From Goodreads:
When eighteen-year-old Becky Randle’s mother dies, she’s summoned from her Missouri trailer park to meet Tom Kelly, the world’s top designer. He makes her an impossible offer: He’ll create three dresses to transform Becky from a nothing special girl into the most beautiful woman who ever lived.

Becky thinks Tom is a lunatic, or that he’s producing a hidden camera show called World’s Most Gullible Poor People. But she accepts, and she’s remade as Rebecca. When Becky looks in the mirror, she sees herself – an awkward mess of split ends and cankles. But when anyone else looks at Becky, they see pure five-alarm hotness.

Soon Rebecca is on the cover of Vogue, the new Hollywood darling, and dating celebrities. Then Becky meets Prince Gregory, heir to the British throne, and everything starts to crumble. Because Rebecca aside, Becky loves him. But to love her back, Gregory would have to look past the blinding Rebecca to see the real girl inside. And Becky knows there’s not enough magic in the world.

Ahhhh! This book! This funny, irreverent, sometimes potty-mouthed, silly and yet totally on the money book!  I don't even know where to start outside of the obvious, you HAVE to read it.

I've never read any of Rudnicks other books, but Gorgeous has put him on my radar in a big and bad way.  It's rare, in my opinion, for a male author to truly nail a female protagonist and vise versa for a female author and a male protagonist.  There's just too much that's unspeakably hormonal about teens, and I think you really need to experience it to describe it, I hardly need to tell you that girls and boys are like different species who just find each other inexplicably intriguing at that age.  Barry Lyga and Libba Bray are the only two authors who I can instantly think of who have done unbelievable jobs of writing in the opposite teen sexes voices, but Rudnick is definitely joining their circle.  If Paul wasn't such an unequivocally male name, I probably would have doubted the likelihood it was a he. With Becky, and her friend Rocher (how much do you love that she was named after Ferrero Rocher chocolates? I mean, I might have to pitch this as a possible baby name), Paul not only nails the insecurities of teen girls, but also the fiery protectiveness of BFF's, the lusty group drooling over boy stars, and all the real places these hormonal reactions come from.  He never plays them at face value, there's never that limp wrist flick towards something as if to say - you know how teen girls are.

Speaking of Becky and Rocher, can I tell you how totally I loved these two crazy, small town girls?  How tough and strong they are, even when they have no idea they are, how smart and razor tongued they can be, and yet how totally down to earth they both manage to be, in often the most spectacular circumstances.  Gorgeous has a fairly strange premise, and there is a lot of tongue-in-cheek suspension of disbelief that's asked of the reader, and if Becky and Rocher weren't so wonderful it may have been a hard thing to give into the more bizarre aspects of the story.  Their funny, and often outrageous point of view, and commentary on what's going on around them made me laugh out loud more than once.

Once inside the palace I was greeted by a woman who introduced herself as  "Lady Veronica Arnstelt-Bowen, Ranking Secretary to Her Majesty."  Lady Veronica was wearing a fuzzy  wollen suit that wasn't gray or pink or cream, yet included all of these colors, as if a few dozen kittens and a visiting Easter chick had crawled all over her and settled in for a mass nap.  And while Lady Veronica's smile was steady I knew that I'd be instantly judged and that whatever Lady Veronica's assessment might be, it had been copyedited, fact-checked and filed in a small cement room lit by bare bulbs in the subasement of her brain. Lady Veronica was most likely in her fifties and she hadn't undergone any cosmetic procedures except for a hint of almost medicinal beige lipstick and two barely blended circles of rouge, like inflamed mosquito bites.  Her face was rigid with diligence and dignity, which are English Botox.

What I loved more than the humor, the repartee and the stellar cast of characters was Rudnicks commentary on beauty, love, confidence and how easy it is to loose sight of yourself.  As the drop dead gorgeous Rebecca, Becky is told repeatedly how fleeting beauty is, how disconcerting and sometimes down right off putting it is.  It's only when Becky hits rock bottom that she can start to put to use the confidence Rebecca has taught her, and gradually discovers she can earn peoples love by being herself and doesn't need Rebecca's easy-in.

A fantastically funny book with heart, I can't recommend Gorgeous enough.  I can pretty much guarantee you're first thought after reading this book will be- why didn't I read it sooner?!

Gorgeous, by Paul Rudnick
Published by Scholastic, April 30th, 2013
My copy kindly provided by the publisher
Buy Gorgeous on Amazon

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