Review: The Prettiest by Brigit Young
This book in 3 words: Fierce, Uplifting and Important
The Prettiest is one of those books that everyone wishes they had in middle school. It is a story of three girls who come together to fight back against an incident and the kind of society that caused it, that has turned their lives upside down. Eve Hoffman is a bookish, quiet girl with beautiful thoughts swirling around in her head that she can't always find the right words for. Sophie Kane is the 'popular' one who knows that she is the best and makes sure she's at the top of everything, except this was the one time she was number two. Nessa Flores-Brady is all set to become a theatre star with a beautiful voice and a well-deserved lead role who does her best to not care, but still can't help it sometimes.
All three girls' lives have been shaken by the list, a list of the '50 Prettiest Girls in 8th Grade'. Eve is number one which she never expected to be, Sophie is number two which she knows she's better than and Nessa isn't on the list, which she never wanted in the first place, or did she? When it feels like the adults in their lives who are supposed to take care of something like this are not doing much, the three of them (who have a super cool group name that I don't want to spoil for you) come up with a plan to find out who made the list and make them regret causing every girl in the grade to feel like nothing more than an object.
This book deals with so many important issues in such a subtle but impactful way and that is what makes it so special. Each character is beautifully complex and battling with their own situations and emotions. In Eve (my personal favourite), we see a girl who never asked for or wanted the attention, and is grappling with being objectified, accused of writing the list herself, people who think it's an amazing compliment to be at the top of a cruel list like that and having to deal with a whole new world of hate she's never experienced before.
Initially, Sophie seems like that one girl who has it all: she's popular, conventionally beautiful, a straight A student, a track star and has her own clique of 'Sophies' who appear devoted to her. But underneath the mask is a girl who is tired of hiding her 'less than appealing' muscular body, having to use a curling iron every single morning to fix her limp hair, having people constantly surround her but not being able to really call anyone an actual friend or being amazing at sports but having to pace herself so she doesn't make the boys feel inferior. She is someone who loves makeup and cares about how she looks, but that shouldn't make anyone take her any less seriously. Sophie was always at the top of every list until now and she is determined to make everyone see why she deserves to be number one. Sophie's character arc is one of the best in this story because she becomes someone who isn't afraid to show the world who she really is.
Nessa is someone I'd definitely want to be friends with just because she has such an interesting, bold personality. She's not afraid to be herself and she protects Eve (and later, Sophie) fiercely. She tries her best not to care about the stupid list because she knows 'big girls wouldn't even be in the top 100 of a list like that' and she also knows that there's nothing wrong with being fat. But, sometimes, she can't help letting the snide comments get to her though she doesn't let it ever show. Nessa is a powerful character who is so refreshingly different from the fat sidekick who exists just to make everyone laugh that we've seen in so many movies and TV shows and that's what makes her feel so much more relatable and real.
The Prettiest is a wonderful, necessary book that is loud and clear with its message: You are not a number.