March 28, 2013

Review: Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality

From the moment ‘Lonely Hearts Club’ hit the shelves, I have been a Eulberg fan. I absolutely love her writing. 

She is a “girlfriend” writer, and by that I mean that every time I read one of her books I want to be BFF with her.

This one is no exception.

Title: Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
ISBN: 9780545476997
Pages: 272 pages
Publisher: Point
Available: NOW at your local bookstore or library
Source: Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Don't mess with a girl with a great personality!

Everybody loves Lexi. She's smart, funny...but she's never been one of those girls, the pretty ones who get all the attention from guys.

On top of that, her seven-year-old sister, Mackenzie, is a terror in a tiara, and part of a pageant scene where she gets praised for her beauty (with the help of fake hair and tons of makeup).

Lexi's sick of it. She's sick of being the girl who hears about kisses instead of getting them. She's sick of being ignored by her longtime crush, Logan. She's sick of being taken for granted by her pageant-obsessed mom. And she's sick of having all her family's money wasted on a phony pursuit of perfection.

The time has come for Lexi to step out from the sidelines. Girls without great personalities aren't going to know what hit them. Because Lexi's going to play the beauty game - and she's in it to win it.

My Thoughts:

Eulberg had me from page one. I was surprised to find myself thrust into the world of child beauty pageants. I was expecting the typical high school drama, but this was a breath of fresh air.

Who cares that the family is at a financial stalemate? Who cares that Mackenzie can be a terror and say the most hateful comments? Who cares that throughout the novel I was thinking, “This is absolute child abuse on so many levels”? You know who cares—Lexi.

This is where we see her character grow, mature and come into her own. Lexi’s character development does not come at the hands of her high school classmates, in a hallway, a classroom, a school dance. Her growth comes as the result of her mother’s obsession with the pageant world.

This obsession takes Lexi down a spiral staircase of crazy. Everything revolves around Mackenzie and the pageants, from Lexi’s work schedule to her money. Nothing is ever enough for her mom, and Lexi has had enough.

This is the real life of many teens—minus the beauty pageant element—because for many of them their time is not their own. They are in a constant fight with their parent(s) for freedom and independence. Eulberg uses the pageants as a hyperbole, but it serves its purpose. Parents, let your children be themselves…and do not let your selfish interests control their lives.

This is what makes Eulberg a master storyteller. She gets it—what it’s like to have siblings and parents who don’t listen and financial strain that does affect more than just the parents. She shows us throughout the novel that not only does she get it she understands the importance of this age.

Instead, Lexi deals with a nightmare of a mother who is so focused on Mackenzie that Lexi does not matter. At all. Throughout the novel, when that mom appeared on the page, my blood would boil. I wanted to step on the page, grab the mom by the shoulders and smack her. It could be because I teach high school and I see what happens when parents neglect their children in such a selfish way, but mainly I think it’s because the mom was that heinous. It has been a long time since I’ve hated a parent on the page that much, but Eulberg brought it out in me.

Now that’s good writing.

Lexi is what makes me love this novel. From start to finish this girl puts up with it all, sacrifices it all, all for her little sister. Finally, it is time for Lexi to find her inner girly-girl and step up her game—but only after a bet. After all, everyone describes her as the girl with the great personality.

This one day deal turns into more, and Lexi realizes that she likes feeling beautiful and being noticed. What’s wrong with that? With the help of Mackenzie’s make-up artist, Lexi steps into her own. But can she balance the “new” Lexi and keep being her old self?  

And I must not forget Logan, Lexi’s crush and the one who has a girlfriend (of course) because the road to love is never paved smoothly. Instead, she is tortured at every pageant because he is there, with his girlfriend, who competes in the pageants as well. How can Lexi compete with that?

Lexi and Logan (great alliteration) make great friends, but would they make more than that? This has surprising results, and yet not. If you’ve read Eulberg novels before, you can guess where this goes.

Finally, the two best friends. How can we have a great tale without great friends to go with it? They are there to support Lexi through it all, to cheer her on, and to be there to help pick up the pieces when it all falls apart. After all, this is a realistic teen novel, and realistically teens lives fall apart, a lot.

A tale of familial love and sacrifice, friendship, crushes, and dating, this novel has it all for readers.

This book will especially appeal to readers of Stephanie Perkins—their writing has the same feel to it, but while Perkins is the queen of teen romance, Eulberg is the queen of John Hughes on paper.

What’s the best realistic fiction novel you’ve read lately?

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

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