BATHING UGLY by Rebecca Busselle


Email this review


A first novel with an interesting feel for off-center characterizations and plot. Betsy, 13, only child of doting parents, is determined to go away to camp--if only to generate a little excitement in her life. Camp Sunny Days seems to adhere to her parents' conservative values, but on arrival for the summer Betsy finds that the camp pecking-order is based largely on appearance. When Miss Mack, the ancient director, reveals (in public) Betsy's mother's request that Betsy lose weight, the girl's efforts in that direction are obsessive. She is devastated when her cabin nominates her for "Bathing Ugly" in a camp contest (there will also be a Bathing Beauty). That humiliation, plus an incident with a bully, stirs in Betsy the courage to make a statement about the contest's values, earning her the respect of others and--more important--self-respect. Though Betsy is well-realized and there are several valuable themes here, the story loses focus somewhat: characterization is uneven, and some plot strands trail off. Still, Busselle's excellent eye for detail, flair for dialogue, and good sense of story make this a promising debut.

Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Orchard
Review Posted Online: