Thirteen-year-old Liv feels invisible behind the facade of her beauty.
A veteran beauty-pageant participant, Liv recognizes life is easier because she is attractive. However, she longs to be valued beyond her good looks and feels trapped by her mother’s expectations. Willner-Pardo skillfully conveys Liv and her mother’s complicated relationship. Even as she struggles to extricate herself from her mother’s goals, Liv is keenly aware of the many sacrifices her mother makes so that Liv can achieve those goals. Liv rebels against her beauty-pageant image through subtly defiant acts; while her mother rarely swears, Liv occasionally sprinkles her language with curse words. However, her mother’s insistence that Liv sing at the upcoming Prettiest Doll pageant catapults Liv into open revolt. Danny, a 15-year-old runaway with his own struggles, inspires Liv to escape from her woes. When she impetuously joins Danny on the run, they discover a common goal: Both want to confront a person who has left them. Dan’s and Liv’s subsequent discoveries empower them to reconsider their futures.
Willner-Pardo deftly captures the complexity of adolescence as these resilient teens endeavor to define their identities and establish control over their lives. (Fiction. 10-14)