*NOTE–I read this book as an Advance Reader’s Copy…it was just recently released to booksellers*
When Becky Randle’s mother dies, Becky discovers a small ring box with just a New York City phone number inside. Thinking this might be her ticket out of East Trawley, Missouri, Becky calls the number and finds herself on her way to New York to meet with the mysterious designer Tom Kelly. Kelly offers Becky a proposition–if she allows him to make her three dresses, he will turn her into the most beautiful woman in the world. What follows is a hilarious romp through high fashion, royalty, and the power of beauty–both outer and inner.
Thoughts– I picked this ARC up from the Scholastic rep at TLA, and given the two blurbs on the cover (Dave Sedaris and Meg Cabot), I was STOKED to read it. After its early May release date, I began seeing all the raves about it on Twitter from authors, bloggers, and friends whose opinions I definitely value. I started reading it with very high expectations…and was kind of disappointed at first, to be completely honest. I didn’t really think Becky was all that great of a narrator, I had absolutely no clue what was going on with Tom Kelly, and it took me a good 50 pages to get used to the hyper-realistic, satirical tone of Rudnick’s writing. I just didn’t get it.
And then all of a sudden–it clicked. The story kicked into high gear, every other page had a legitimate LOL, “OMG, I can’t believe he wrote that!” moment (or two or three), and I began to really care about what happened to Becky, Rocher (named after the candy, natch), Prince Gregory, and even smarmy old Tom Kelly. I very rarely literally laugh out loud at books–it’s usually more of a sardonic smirk–but this book had me cracking up with its banter and over-the-top antics. Rudnick is really at his best when he’s crafting scenes solely for comedic relief, like many of those between Becky and Rocher, and you can definitely see his roots as a satire writer in Gorgeous.*
Two little caveats for me about this one: One, the story is pretty pat and predictable, but when it’s this much fun, I pretty much don’t care about that. Two, there is an exorbitant amount of use of the F-word and other swear words in this book. And listen–I worked at an inner-city high school for 5 years, and The Departed and Dazed and Confused are two of my favorite movies. I’ve also been known to use “colorful language” myself a time or two…or perhaps more than that. It takes A LOT for me to say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa…that’s maybe too much cussing,” and this book did. I mean, I don’t ever need to see the C-word in print. Ever. That being said, I did see how Rudnick was kind of using that language as a characterization device (it’s mostly Rocher saying those things), and so I get it. I just think it was maybe a bit too much…and would probably offend those with more delicate sensibilities.
Overall, I found Gorgeous hilarious and a fun summer read; it’s a perfect pool- or beach-side book to make you laugh and maybe think a little, too.
*He writes a column for Entertainment Weekly (my favorite magazine OF ALL TIME) under the pen name Libby Gelman-Waxner, and it’s HYSTERICAL.