OUTSIDE BEAUTY by Cynthia Kadohata
Kirkus Star


Age Range: 12 & up
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Shelby, 13, and her three sisters adore their beautiful, narcissistic mother, Helen Kimura, who supports them on the proceeds of her symbiotic relationships with men. Each girl has a different father, so after their mother suffers a serious car accident, the girls are parceled out to their respective dads. While Shelby learns to love hers, she also longs to reunite her original family unit. The girls understand and accept that maintaining and using her “outside beauty” is Helen’s profession, but Shelby, at least, recognizes that beauty can take other forms, too. Her plain, shy, Japanese-immigrant father is a case in point, and the nonjudgmental love she shares with her sisters and mother is another. To enjoy this fairy-tale-without-fantasy, readers must buy the premise that this lifestyle has produced a happy, high-functioning family; once they’ve done that, the superb composition and characterization will carry them along. Realistic or not, two important truths underlie this quirky and disarming tale: Tolstoy was wrong; not all happy families are alike. And, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: June 3rd, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-689-86575-6
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2008


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