Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Book Review: Looks

Looks by Madeleine George. (Grades 9+)

Meghan. Big as a couch. Silent observer of high school halls. Victim of abuse perpetrated by the basketball team. Invisible. Silent.

Aimee. Angular. Tiny. Family falling apart, so she starves herself to gain control. New at school and looking for someone to trust. Poet.

In the halls of Valley Regional High, Meghan spots Aimee and recognizes her as a kindred spirit. As their stories unfold, they'll come together to get back at the girl who's hurt them both.

I was absolutely entranced by the writing in this book. I seriously did not want to put it down. Ms. George starts us off with a very cinematic view of Valley Regional High. We zoom in on the characters and see Meghan standing off by herself, observing everything around her. I felt like the book was unfolding before my eyes.

The story is told in alternating viewpoints between Meghan and Aimee. We meet Meghan first, but the story feels more like Aimee's story because we get a lot more background on her character. Aimee's been messed up since her kinda-pseudo stepdad left (what do you call the guy who was your mother's live-in boyfriend for five years but who has now broken up with her and left?). She's not so much with the eating. And she's just started high school and she'd really like a friend. She thinks she's found a friend in Tara. Tara is cute and popular and smart and she takes Aimee under her wing when they meet to work on the school's literary magazine. But many people in this story are more than meets the eye.

The writing is poetic, which is really fitting since Aimee is a poet and all.

Here's a passage when Aimee's about to share a poem she wrote:

It's so weird to see it there, this thing that was totally personal, totally hers, like a tooth in her mouth or a vein in her wrist, extracted from the privacy of her notebook and pinned out here on the page for everybody to see and peer at and judge. (pg 68)

And in describing Aimee's relationship with food:

Surely any second now she'll get up helplessly from the circle and drag her backpack to the bathroom and cram a whole carrot stick into her mouth, bite down on it and explode the beautiful hunger she's been building like a glass palace in her body all day long. (pg 72)

I agree with criticism that the two narrators are not equally developed. Aimee gets a lot of backstory, while Meghan is simple "the fat girl" for the vast majority of the book. But it didn't bother me so much because I felt like this was Aimee's story. I wonder if we might be so lucky as to get a sequel that fleshes out Meghan's story.

Check out Madeleine George's website and more reviews at Teen Book Review, bookshelves of doom, and Becky's Book Reviews.