What teenaged female hasn’t dreamed about being ‘discovered’ and becoming an international supermodel? Heck, there are entire TV series based on this dream! "Growing Up Beautiful" by Lori Jones walks us through the ups and downs of three 16-year-old girls who come from very different backgrounds, but all end up in the same situation: modeling in Milan for a summer.
Joanne leaves behind an ultra-conservative, ultra-controlling family. She’s never made a move without first consulting her parents, and when she gets the chance to go to Milan for the summer, her parents make it clear that this is not what people of their social status do. Joanne chooses to push back (as much as she knows how to), and makes a deal with her parents that allows her to go try her hand at doing something on her own for the first time.
Star leaves behind a less than attractive family life: she’s working all day as a waitress to support a mother who drinks to excess. She makes it clear to anyone who will listen that she’s in it for the money. Her point of view can be a little off-putting, but try to imagine yourself in that situation. Selling out for a generous paycheck might just be the best thing for her, in her opinion.
Casey is an all-American girl, whose naïveté becomes more and more apparent as she tries to make a name for herself in the cutthroat world of modeling. She struggles with finding friends, keeping the pounds off, and remembering who she is through the daily grind.
Following these three young ladies through their adventures in and around Milan, I found their characters to be a little bit stereotypical. I could guess fairly easily what their reaction could be to situations as they occurred. That being said, the novel certainly didn't pull punches. Not everything was sunshine and roses for these young ladies, and it certainly outlined some pitfalls of the life that they were living in Milan. For me, though, it was still a fun ride. I’m a huge fan of America’s Next Top Model, and although there wasn’t the direct competition that we see in the program in this book, it was certainly a part of their daily life, as implied through conversations with Marcella (the booker) and the head of the agency that the girls were working for about various jobs that they had gone on.
The author Lori Jones actually worked as a model from 1981-1997, so she’s not just making this up as she goes along. It lends an air of credibility and of detail to the novel, especially considering she modeled for five years (from 1982-1987) in Milan, Germany, and Spain, much like the protagonists in her novel.
If you’re looking for a fluffy escape from reality, and if you enjoy America’s Next Top Model as much as I do, you’ll probably enjoy "Growing Up Beautiful." Bonus: it’s only $2.99 on Kindle. Strike a pose and pick it up today!
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