by Corey Ann Haydu
Expected Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Length: 368 pages
Obtained Via: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
View at the Traffic light:
Montana and her sister, Arizona, are named after the mountainous states their mother left them for. But Montana is a New York City girl through and through, and as the city heats up, she’s stepping into the most intense summer of her life.
With Arizona wrapped up in her college world and their father distracted by yet another divorce, Montana’s been immersing herself in an intoxicating new friendship with a girl from her acting class. Karissa is bold, imperfectly beautiful, and unafraid of being vulnerable. She’s everything Montana would like to become. But the friendship with Karissa is driving a wedge between Montana and her sister, and the more of her own secrets Karissa reveals, the more Montana has to wonder if Karissa’s someone she can really trust.
In the midst of her uncertainty, Montana finds a heady distraction in Bernardo. He’s serious and spontaneous, and he looks at Montana in the way she wants to be seen. For the first time, Montana understands how you can become both lost and found in somebody else. But when that love becomes everything, where does it leave the rest of her imperfect life?
After reading Life by Committee, I knew instantly I’d be picking up Haydu’s next book. Unfortunately, that book turned out to be Making Pretty, and I ended up feeling quite bored during my entire reading experience. Making Pretty has an interesting premise. The book centers on main character Montana and a summer that changes her already messy family. Montana’s dad is a chronic husband–in that, keeps marrying women and divorcing after a few years. He’s had four wives and countless girlfriends. He’s also a cosmetic plastic surgeon who’s focused on “fixing” everyone around him. Add in some more characters–new friend Karissa, a just-returned-from-college sister, and Bernardo, a new boyfriend, and you have all the makings of a book full of exploring messy dynamics, which Haydu was so good at in Life by Committee.
My main issue with Making Pretty was the pacing and repetition. The first 18% held my attention because there’s some secrets and then a reveal, but after that things seemed to stall. Montana gets with Bernardo quickly, so there’s not even a build-up to the romance. On its own, that’s fine, because Making Pretty isn’t that kind of book, but when added to everything else there was just a boulder of plot at the top of a hill that never went anywhere. While reading I felt like every scene was the same. Montana, Karissa, Bernardo, and sometimes Arizona and another friend either go out or hang out in the basement. They get drunk. Karissa gets emotional about her lost family. Montana and Bernardo act like lustful teenagers who think they’re in love. Lather, rinse, repeat.
These scenes, on their own, are fine. One thing I like about Haydu’s writing is that she doesn’t mind showing messy people. People who make mistakes, who say things they don’t mean to say because they’re in love or they’ve been drinking or they’re tired of hiding. So I thought that’s what these scenes were building towards, but nothing ever really comes of them except one revelation at the end(which is pretty easy to spot from the beginning). I don’t mind slow books, but they should be building towards something. I couldn’t put Haydu’s previous book, Life by Committee, down. I had to bribe myself to pick Making Pretty back up.
Making Pretty isn’t a bad book. Haydu has a way of getting right to the core with her prose, and there were times when I read something and in my head went “Yup, that’s exactly what being seventeen felt like.” She’s good at writing teenagers in a way that feels both authentic and wonderful. In some ways, her prose reminds me of Courtney Summers’ in that neither right the more poetic style I generally prefer, but there’s something special about the writing that makes me sit up and pay attention. The writing was actually what kept me trucking through the rest of the book, even when I was bored.
On the whole, though, Making Pretty was a disappointment. There’s a lot of set-up and potential with not much payoff. I appreciate Haydu’s willingness to take characters to messy places, to let them make bad choices, to really explore the world through her characters. While I think Making Pretty hits the first two, it lacks the latter–and the book suffers for it.
Making Pretty was a fairly predictable read. I loved the idea of the characters, but didn’t feel they were ever actualized properly. There were bits and pieces I liked, but looking at the book as a whole left me feeling rather bored. 2/5 cupcakes.