Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu ( web | tweet )
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on May 12, 2015
Pages: 368 | Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: beauty, father/daughter relationships, sisters, NYC, romance
Summary: It’s summer in NYC and Montana is dealing with having her college-aged sister/best friend, her plastic surgeon father and some unexpected news, and the attention of a new boy.
The day I write this is the same day I went and got my face waxed. I’ll spare you the nitty gritty details. It was for more than my eyebrows. I like the salon I go to. Most of the time. It took me three years of living in my neighborhood to find it, and even though it’s been a solid 8 months of walking through its doors, I have to get myself in the mood. Get myself in the mood to get prodded and for someone to ask “are you sure you don’t want this too?” Nothing pumps up your self-esteem like having a total stranger ask you if you want to get your lip waxed. Or telling you your eyebrows are uneven when you only frequent one place so whose fault is that really? Even though I’m paying them for a service, I also walk in with a little bit of shame. What do you think about when someone is pulling hair from your body and spending a lot of time doing so? I try to relax but in the end I’m always thinking I wish I did not have to do this.
That’s sad, isn’t it?
No one is forcing me to go. Right? When I was in sixth grade, someone made fun of my eyebrows once after picture day. They weren’t exactly a unibrow but they weren’t tiny either. I started plucking them myself. My hair has always been dark against my fair skin. I can thank those Spanish genes. My arms, my legs, you get the picture. It’s always been my move to “do something about it”. It wasn’t my mom forcing me to do any of the above. In fact, she was adamant about me not shaving for a long time and keeping my eyebrows thick. (I didn’t listen.) She’s always been incredibly accepting and did nothing to make me feel less than who I was. So in reading a book like Corey Ann Haydu’s Making Pretty I am absolutely aghast about Montana’s father behavior when it came to the looks of his daughters. Part of me thinks he thinks he’s doing “the right thing” and helping his daughters “accept themselves” but as a plastic surgeon who is constantly taking on new female projects and totally transforming them… we know the truth. It’s not as it seems.
Basically we have Montana — about to embark on another summer in New York City. Her best friend (Roxanne) and her sister (Arizona) are back from college. She’s been honored with the friendship of the older, sophisticated Karissa. The boy (Bernardo) she’s been checking out at the park is looking at her back. But nothing is totally clicking except for the last thing. She can’t relate to Roxanne and Arizona the same way since she went to college. Karissa is not what she seemed — or even close. But Bernardo — he is someone she can have for herself. He is someone who is on her side. Alongside him, Montana goes on this journey to reinvent herself but also get down to the naked truth of what she means to people. Her dad has married again and again; all the while, Montana has basically been discarded by these women. I don’t think it was any fault of these ex-wives, I don’t, but I also can’t imagine how Montana feels watching each of these people walk out of her life without turning back and wondering about her.
As much as this book is about beauty — how it is perceived and thrust upon us — Haydu unshockingly (because she always asks the tough questions) explores the complexity of sister relationships, the all-consuming impulsiveness that comes along with first love, and the desire to take control but feeling powerless to actually obtain it. Like in Life By Committee, the author has spun another suspenseful contemporary — where will all of this messy behavior lead these characters? There was no way I could have predicted what would happen.
What exactly do you do when the authority figure in your life makes poor choice after poor choice? That your dad of all people — someone who is supposed to love you unconditionally — thinks he can make you look “better” and thinks he is helpful for offering to help in that area? What do you do when your older sister — one of your best friends — deviates from what she believed in? It’s no wonder that Montana is feeling out of sorts and doesn’t know what she belongs. There is very little that has been stable in her life, and it becomes her own (heavy) responsibility to come to terms with her father and his “well-meaning” abuse and dissect the various meanings of love she’s coming in contact with.
There’s a ton of discussion-worthy layers in Making Pretty and Haydu’s writes both succinctly and honestly, making Montana one of the freshest female voices I’ve read in awhile. She’s also put a reader like me in quite a pickle — how can I have a favorite book of hers when all of them are so wonderful and address so many relevant and pertinent issues we are so careful to hide? Her books may be categorized as young adult but I hope that’s taken as more of a suggestion than a universal rule by thirsty readers searching for unputdownable and thoughtful fiction because her work deserves a wider audience.
An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher.