Pretty Face by Mary Hogan

via Goodreads
via Goodreads

Rated: 4 stars Recommends it to: Young adults, particularly girls who are over weight and have a problem with it. Guys, you too. You need to see how some girls think.

A note before you read: Like literally all reviews are, this one is subjective and may be too … harsh? I don’t know, but I want to say that the story had components that I feel strongly towards. Also, I mean no disrespect to the people of California or anyone else. It’s been a bad day but don’t let me spoil yours 🙂

~*~

Hayley’s over weight, her mother nags her constantly over the fact and it got on my nerves. No matter how much she tries Hayley can’t give up the food she enjoys for the tasteless yucky tofu (or at least I think it’s yucky, I’ve never tasted the stuff) Gwyn, the mom, forces down the throats of the whole family, the kitchen’s the most avoided room in the apartment. I can’t imagine living like that, my mom’s not the best cook but she’s a decent one and I always manage to worm myself out of not eating cook-up (a local dish, not sure if it has any other name).

Another thing what I didn’t like was Hayley’s hatred of herself for being the ‘f’ word. Fat. I can understand, this something I closely empathize with, if not entirely. I know what it’s like to be Chubby Dean, what it feels like to be constantly reminded that I needed to lose weight and the feeling of momentary loathing of those tell me and the more lasting dose for myself. What was wrong with me? Does being fat make me uninteresting, an eyesore? Unlikeable? Does it make who I am less important? One of the lessons I’ve learned last year was the answer to these questions: Nothing. No. No. No. And. No. There are worse things to be.

There was a part in the beginning where she tries to woo her crush, Drew, the cute deep dude who shares her English Lit class. With the aid of her prettier, slimmer and more popular and very likeable best amiga, Jackie (who really is a nice person), she sets out and dresses to impress! Now, my friends and fellow strangers, this is my least favourite part of this book. It’ is saddening to see her, this smart, funny, pretty young woman, change herself for some guy she barely knows. If you can’t be yourself with yourself – and you’re with your person at all times – then how are you supposed to be comfortable at all much less with anyone else?

But this was her learning phase, and a lesson learned the hard way, though it still ached me to the point of screaming at her stupidity, learn quicker! I won’t tell you how that went. Okay, fine I will but only a little bit: he didn’t like her. He’s not even worth it. Maybe. There’s more to it than that simple statement but if you are really curious then I suggest you read the book. After running out on one of her mom’s weight loss buddy group session, the parents decided to send her off to Italy for the summer to stay over with one of her mom’s old friends in Assisi, for I though was for her to relax and forget her mother’s obsessive attitude.

It’s like coming to this new place, where eating isn’t nearly as taboo as it is for some young women back in California. Oh, the food! How was she supposed to resist the delicious Italian cuisine? That’s the thing, she doesn’t have to. This village sounds very scenic but it’s almost cut off from the world in terms of almost non-existent Wifi and telephones and her only means of transport to and from the village to the house was either by foot or bike.

She grows to accept the food while trudging back and forth on the legs God gave her, and soon enough she comes to accept her for her and sooner yet she begins to lose weight despite eating freely, and by not worrying anymore. Hayley learns to take it slow and looks inwards and being overweight isn’t as important as other things in life as it seemed before when it could have been worse. Besides, there’s so much to enjoy!

She meets the handsome, sweet Lorenzo, or Enzo, who helps her to enforce these new views. I like him. Don’t know a lot about the fellow but what he says tells me something about him.

He says, “Americans say they are poor when they have everything. Italians are poor only when they have nothing.”

Enzo’s words make me stop and think. My family has three cars, Quinn has the latest Xbox, I have a new iPod, we live close to the beach, my brother and I have our own rooms, my parents paid for me to fly to Italy. Enzo tells me he lives with his mother in the back of the tiny café. They don’t own a car or a computer. They’ve never left Italy. “I guess I am a rich American,” I say. Biting into the sweet, juicy peach his mother packed, Enzo says, “I am rich Italian, too.”

– Hogan, Mary (2009-03-31). Pretty Face (pp. 164-165). HarperTeen. Kindle Edition.

There is sex. They lose their virginity to each other. I don’t see how this helps things, maybe it wasn’t meant to. Was this supposed to make her feel more beautiful, more confident that a guy actually wanted to sleep with her, no matter how nice he is? Was this how she really felt? Sex shouldn’t have to make her feel better, the act is much more than that, or so I perceive it to be. More than many of these kids (only a few years my junior) can comprehend. Hayley should feel great about herself because she is in her own way encouragement is always welcome but … in this way? I could be seeing this wrong.

I’m a girl who believe in waiting until marriage, our bodies aren’t something that is supposed to be given over lightly. Sixteen years old. From the experience of having been one, I know at that age certain things seem to mean the whole world when in reality it wasn’t worth a darn and vice versa. Premarital sex has become the norm in many societies now, hell, even younger. I think it’s a negative message to send to young people. I know others see this differently but this is what I know and what I stick to. But perhaps this is one of those things that just happened, with those raging teenage hormones a raging. Body over mind and all that.

Holiday flings hardly ever work out in the long run, we’re left to ponder upon Hayley and Enzo’s fate after she returned to the California, which now seems to be a strange yet familiar world of the superficial crowds. Final dislike: I learned why her mom was so hard on her to lose weight but it is so unfair and undeserved on Haley’s part. When the girl comes home the mother’s first words to her were that she lost weight:

My mother rushes to greet me in the arrivals area of LAX. “You’ve lost weight!” she squeals. “Our plan worked! I’m going to catch the next plane to Italy!”

– Hogan, Mary (2009-03-31). Pretty Face (p. 193). HarperTeen. Kindle Edition.

Come on, woman. I thought this was about your daughter finding herself, about her feeling better about herself and to take a break from you. I find it difficult to sympathize with her, apparently she used to be this skinny teen way back when, things changed and she put on weight and doesn’t want to go there again. She probably meant well but there are lines and she shouldn’t force her insecurities on Hayley.

Points grasped:

  • Not because you’re not slim and trim makes you fat or overweight, they’re different things. Fat is a little over average – a healthy one, whatever that is – while overweight is unhealthy. Whichever, it doesn’t change who you are and the people who tell you otherwise can go to hell, they aren’t good people or they’ve got personal issues with weight. They need to deal with it.
  • Don’t change for anyone, when you find people who accept the person you are it’s then you know they’re the right kind to surround yourself with. You don’t have to go to Italy or some other foreign country to go about the self realization process, though it might be what some people need.
  • I admit that as infuriating Gwen was, she was totally human and I can see why she was like that even though it doesn’t make her behaviour acceptable to me. Hayley’s feelings about herself initially might have had me reminiscing and preaching to an e- reader at 2 AM but it is what she felt, and thousands of other girls know how it’s like. Even guys.

These and more, are what made the book more real to me. People will not always be sensible, they won’t always be logical and sane. It’s a journey to the other side of those what kept me going because I know Hayley had what it took. And not everyone will change at the end. I saw a significant blooming transformation from the girl that left for Italy and the one that returned. It was a book worth reading and one I will recommend to everyone, at least give the kindle sample a try.

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9 thoughts on “Pretty Face by Mary Hogan

  1. I a very thorough and thoughtful review. And I don’t think it was at all harsh. Just honest, like all reviews should be. Nice job! I hope you do the same for my book when it comes out…

  2. Absolutely right about reviews being subjective. I wouldn’t even read this, let alone give it stars! 🙂

    Amazing review, though. You even included quotes and “points grasped”; I’m impressed.

    As for the sex part, I used to agree with you… then I went to (Cambridge) university and realised the world was a very different place from how I thought it should be.

    1. Hi, James! The ‘points grasped’ was something I recently began including, initially to reassure myself that I learned something at all, though I also hope if the latter part of it all hadn’t convinced anyone perhaps this might.

      The world is never the way it should be, but then again, we all have different views on that. Thank you!

  3. Wow I really love the quote about rich American’s vs Italians, it’s brilliant and almost just makes me want to read the book just for that quote! I actually recently wrote a post on these types of books and the media’s portrayal of them, judging by this review I would be really interested to hear your opinion on the subject!

    Another really great review here, I’m really enjoying snooping through your blog! 😀

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