WAKING BEAUTY by Elyse Friedman
Kirkus Star


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Forget compassion: this ugly duckling gets even in Canadian Friedman’s US debut.

Before: Allison Penny is too plump for her sweatpants, too grumpy to be loved, and too poor to do a thing about it. Virginie, her pretty, petite roommate, thinks nothing of blowing cigarette smoke in her face and letting goateed, arty, oversexed boyfriends parade around their shared apartment nearly naked; homely Allison is, above all, safe. Musing morosely upon the perfidy of a world where good visuals trump all, our heroine, who is at least blessed with a beautiful voice, knows that she’s not likely to make it big as a singer when sexy, no-talent squawkers like Madonna and Britney Spears rule the airwaves. Allison, a compulsive people-pleaser from childhood (“who would like to eat the delicious portions of my lunch today?”), is just plain fed-up with being lonely and unwanted. Even her secret crush on nerdy Nathan, the bespectacled movie buff who waters the plants at the office building she cleans for $7 an hour, is going nowhere. After: a mysterious transformation takes place while she sleeps, and Allison is suddenly, utterly gorgeous, blond-bosomy-leggy-sexy gorgeous. Hunky construction workers fall on their knees to service her sexually, and the rest of the (male) world seems to be standing in line to do the same. No longer a nobody, noticed by men and—oh, tawdry joy!—envied by women, she invents a past to fit the face and her new opportunities (ironically, her singing talent vanished with her plain-Jane exterior). But being beautiful makes fairy-tale fulfillment ridiculously easy. Should she become a model? A movie star? Decisions, decisions. But, first, Allison has some scores to settle and things to find out. With the eager assistance of her adoptive mother, a self-involved, gold-digging alcoholic who neglected her, Allison goes in search of the woman who gave her away.

Fiercely funny, with a slice-and-dice take on image-obsessed popular culture: a standout in the crowded chick-lit field.

Pub Date: June 22nd, 2004
ISBN: 1-4000-5106-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Three Rivers/Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2004