Friday, August 7, 2020

Review: The Prettiest by Brigit Young

The Prettiest
by Brigit Young
Release Date: April 14th 2020
2020 Roaring Brook Press
Kindle Edition; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-1626729230
Genre: Fiction / Juvenile / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

THE PRETTIEST: It’s the last thing Eve Hoffmann expected to be, the only thing Sophie Kane wants to be, and something Nessa Flores-Brady knows she’ll never be . . . until a list appears online, ranking the top fifty prettiest girls in the eighth grade.

Eve is disgusted by the way her body is suddenly being objectified by everyone around her.
Sophie is sick of the bullying she’s endured after being relegated to number two.
And Nessa is tired of everyone else trying to tell her who she is.

It’s time for a takedown. As the three girls band together, they begin to stand up not just for themselves, but for one another, too.

My Thoughts
The Prettiest is one of those books that every teen girl should read.  The author takes a good, long look at sexual harassment and the way females are perceived and uses those concepts in a powerful book about female objectification that really hit home.  It really made me understand and realize how much we actually do this in our society; think of the lists that come out every year in our magazines, such as "50 most handsome men in Hollywood" and the "100 most beautiful women of the year" and the lists just go on and on.  This book is definitely a powerful novel about how we dehumanize people and the value we put on how people look.  I enjoyed every page of it and it definitely made me think a lot about the words and actions that are used every day.

This story definitely is on trend with what is happening in the world today, and I think the author tackled the subject with great sensitivity and humour.  Through her characters, Young was able to capture the many different viewpoints regarding the subject, from Eve's father who thought there was nothing wrong with the list and was happy his daughter was #1, to Eve's brother who help Eve understand why there was so much wrong with the list and helped her understand her worth lies not in how she looks but in how she behaves.  Through parent meetings as well as meetings with the principal, there is plenty of fodder for the author to explain different viewpoints and to show how this objectification and harassment is harmful to everyone. 

I loved that Eve was Jewish, but that it didn't play a huge role in the book; it was just part of who she was without minimizing the fear that still existed when she revealed her religion to people and was afraid of how they would react.  Very well done!  But the book wasn't just about Eve, there was also Sophie and Nessa.  Told in multiple POV, the reader got to see how other girls reacted to the list and how it affected them.  I actually think Sophie grew the most in this book as a character and I loved her development from popular queen to confident young lady who really valued her friendships and her strengths as well as appreciated the strengths of those around her.

The story moved rather quickly and I easily read this in just a couple of hours; honestly, I had a hard time putting it down.  As a teacher, it really made me reflect on quite a few things, and I definitely see some things quite differently.  I would have liked to see more involvement from the school counsellor with regards to helping the students deal with the aftermath of the list, but I was really glad the revenge didn't quite happen the way it was intended. 

The Prettiest is definitely a quick read, but it was very thought-provoking.  I liked how the author chose to allow the girls to work together rather than have them fight against each other, and I definitely was a huge fan of Eve's brother for his insightful comments.  I don't necessarily agree with his assessment of high school as I teach at that level and I think we have a lot of work to do there as well, but this book is a great way to start opening eyes to some of the problems that exist and maybe we can start with some of the things we take for granted in our society, like listing people.  I highly recommend this book to anyone, not just juvenile fiction readers.  I think adults would highly benefit from this read as well. 


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