A debut romantic comedy focuses on a small-town girl who gets discovered, takes chances, and tries to celebrate never fitting the mold.
Alex Emmerson is a college student living at home and working at Safeway when a chance encounter changes her life. Glamorous scout Robin Ramon sees potential in the tall 20-year-old and soon Alex is flying from Canada to New York to start an unexpected modeling career. Of course, nothing is that easy. Alex soon has to contend with weight loss and body image issues as well as an older model roommate who fails to clean the apartment, triggering Alex’s plumbaphobia (fear of strange bathrooms) and leading the wannabe model to purchase loads of Saran Wrap and rubber gloves. (She also, at almost 21, carries a security blanket everywhere.) After one too many model castings go wrong, Alex undergoes a makeover courtesy of glamorous fairy godmother Virginie, but better hair and clothes don’t hide her awkward demeanor and lack of filter. Broke and dropped by her agency, Alex takes a bartending job at the tony Le Brasserie restaurant and finds a whole new peer group—and a love interest in the handsome but enigmatic Dante. As Alex’s social media profile grows after a disastrous runway show goes viral, will the friendly British Canadian keep trying to conquer the catwalk? Or will she embrace her imperfections and learn to love herself just as she is? In this ambitious tale, Tong gives readers a plucky heroine who possesses more than one major flaw, and rich, evocative details about the modeling world. But Alex’s tendency to blurt out whatever’s on her mind often yields problematic generalizations about race and sexuality. Even when she learns her lesson, it’s thanks to emotional labor from people of color or queer characters (such as the black clerk at her local Safeway and Virginie’s gay best friend) who are stereotypes in and of themselves. Finally, Alex’s plumbaphobia hints at a serious mental health issue that she blatantly refuses to see a doctor for, continuing to skip through life hurting others’ feelings.
An intriguing rags-to-riches story that lacks nuanced characters.