November 20, 2017

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The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty

The title of Amanda Filipacchi‘s latest novel says it all. So many teens are so very conscious of appearances, I can only imagine that this book will incite discussion. The cover and title alone are likely to inspire certain readers to pick it up.

It also fulfills that frequent request for funny books (the humor here is largely satirical), and will satisfy readers looking for a love story, albeit a unique one. I also appreciate that its two main protagonists are artists, a composer and a costume designer. This is a sophisticated read for smart teens.

FILIPACCHI, Amanda. The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty. 332p. W.W. Norton. Feb. 2015. Tr $25.95. ISBN 9780393243871. LC 2014037010.  

A memorable group of five friends are featured in this wholly original novel filled with plot twists and turns that address the themes of beauty, friendship, and love. Barb, 28, an exquisitely beautiful costume designer, every day painstakingly dons a disguise that makes her ugly. Lily, 25, is a brilliant pianist and composer who, by society’s standards, is deemed unattractive. Georgia is a successful novelist with quick wit. Penelope, supported by her wealthy family, is struggling to find her place after having been kidnapped and held in a coffin several years prior. The fifth member is an ex-cop who was injured when he rescued Penelope. Barb and Lily have been friends for eight years and Barb finds Lily “nothing but beautiful,” though Barb’s perception is admittedly “skewed by affection.” In an attempt to have Strad, a man Lily has loved for years, notice her, she composes music that makes her beautiful. She must go to great lengths to have her music playing while they are together, or else wear a mask that Barb has created. The author weaves amusing elements of farce and fantasy into the story without jarring the narrative. Barb and Lily just want to find true love that is not based on appearances and through a host of preposterous circumstances, their wishes come true. VERDICT Though the characters are not teens, this novel is bound to spark a lively debate about the nature of beauty, whether society’s norms can be changed, and the notion of true love.—Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA

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Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.

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