A controlling teen grows up.
One might think the title of Barson’s second teen novel (45 Pounds (More or Less), 2013) refers to hair or fabric, but what’s really in need of modification here is narrator/protagonist Charlotte Pringle’s behavior. Set in a monochromatic middle America, this classic tale of individuation centers on driven Charlotte’s understanding of herself, particularly in relation to her best friend, Lydia, and to her mother. Now high school juniors, in eighth grade, Charlotte and Lydia formed their “Grand Plan” to go to cosmetology school and then open a salon together. Though Charlotte’s mother “considers a hairdresser someone you hire, not something you become,” Charlotte follows her heart and her talents, determined, with Lydia’s help, to nab scholarship money to further her career. Charlotte’s career trajectory gets tested mightily when Lydia starts acting strangely, forcing Charlotte to wonder how she could have been so naïve as to think her life could be under her control and to face some unpleasant truths about herself. While Barton’s plot-driven narrative involves rather predictable twists—besties on the rocks over some cad, a mother-daughter contest of wills, public humiliation, even a birth amid stormy weather—it still offers important lessons in self-realization and collaboration.
An engaging if somewhat heavy-handed exploration of the need for a personal makeover on all levels. (Fiction. 12-18)