Friday, October 26, 2012

Prettiest Doll by Gina Willner-Pardo

Olivia is pretty.  Everyone knows it, and she's been doing pageants since she was little.  Now she's 13, and her mother has put her in the Prettiest Doll competition.  But Olivia isn't feeling the same as she used to about pageants.  She starting to feel afraid that pretty is the only thing people will ever see in her, that that's even all her mother sees in her.  When Olivia gets a chance to take off with a teen runaway to Chicago, she takes it.  But Olivia realizes that going to Chicago is only partly about running away from pageants.

I'm surprised that there aren't more YA or middle grade books that revolve around the pageant world.  It's quite the hot topic, with that pageant show on TV.  I have never watched it, but the kids and parents are always on the talk shows at the gym defending their right to dress their children in outfits from Pretty Woman.

This book took an interesting look at how people perceive you for your physical appearance.  Olivia knows she's very pretty, and she likes being pretty.  She doesn't wish she wasn't.  But she does begin to worry that maybe that's all anyone will ever think about her.  She asks her mom if she would be proud of her if she didn't do pageants, and what for, and her mom couldn't answer the question.  Olivia wants to be more than just pretty, but she doesn't know how to tell her mom she doesn't want to do pageants anymore so she can have time to try other things.

Danny, the runway she meets, has a growth hormone deficiency.  He's 17 but looks more like ten.  He's run away because he doesn't want to do the growth hormone shots his mom really wants him to take.  So we have a very unlikely pairing of kids, and when Danny leaves town, Olivia takes her opportunity to free herself from her mother and pageants.  She doesn't think it out very well, just knows that her uncle lives in Chicago and she'll go to him.

I was totally horrified the way the adults in this story let a 13-year-old wander the streets of Chicago.  It's not that it was Chicago, I would be horrified that a kid was wondering around in any strange city.  So not a good idea.  But it's a story and it served its purpose.

Both Danny and Olivia realize that their running away only partly had to do with pageants or growth hormone shots.  They were both seeking out someone who'd left them, and whom they secretly thought would help make everything OK.  They realize that this is not the case, and if they want to change thing for themselves, they need to make their own decisions and stand by them.

I enjoyed the story and I liked Olivia's growth over the course of the book.

Prettiest Doll comes out November 6, 2012.

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