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A Reader of Fictions: Jane - Ben Folds Five (Pretty Amy Blog Tour)

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Monday, May 21, 2012

Jane - Ben Folds Five (Pretty Amy Blog Tour)

Pretty Amy

Author: Lisa Burstein
Pages: 304
ARC Acquired from: Entangled Publishing for the tour

Description from Goodreads:
Amy is fine living in the shadows of beautiful Lila and uber-cool Cassie, because at least she’s somewhat beautiful and uber-cool by association. But when their dates stand them up for prom, and the girls take matters into their own hands—earning them a night in jail outfitted in satin, stilettos, and Spanx—Amy discovers even a prom spent in handcuffs might be better than the humiliating “rehabilitation techniques” now filling up her summer. Worse, with Lila and Cassie parentally banned, Amy feels like she has nothing—like she is nothing.

Navigating unlikely alliances with her new coworker, two very different boys, and possibly even her parents, Amy struggles to decide if it’s worth being a best friend when it makes you a public enemy. Bringing readers along on an often hilarious and heartwarming journey, Amy finds that maybe getting a life only happens once you think your life is over.

First Sentence: "Unfortunately, I am only myself."

Pretty Amy was not at all the book I expected it to be. I was expecting a fluffy prom book, something like Ditched. Hijinks, misadventures and pretty dresses. That was all kinds of wrong. The book is like that for approximately five seconds, and then it's very clear that this book is deeper and darker. Pretty Amy is not a fun, feel-good book, not a prom book, even though Amy does have a prom dress like the one on the cover.

Actually, Pretty Amy is mostly about trying to find your identity in the unforgiving high school years. When we meet her, Amy is desperate, and, worst of all, she thinks her life is about as good as it's ever been. She has two best friends, Lila and Cassie, though she worries that they like each other better than they like her. But hey, at least she has them, right? And they have dates for prom. Only then they get stood up, and Lila steals a HUGE bag of pot from her boyfriend, and they get arrested. It's a mess.

Although I usually avoid reviews, I know that some people have been turned off by Amy; they just could not relate to her or understand why she would make such incredibly stupid decisions. Although I must admit that I did some serious Amy-judging, I also have a better understanding of her motivations. I know what it's like to be utterly friendless, and I know what you will put up with in an attempt to be liked, to not be alone. While I would like to think I'm too damn stubborn to have ever have done some of the stupid shit Amy does, like the smoking of all sorts, maybe I would have if I had had the possibility of friendship.

Amy's self-confidence is pretty much non-existence, which is, again, something else I can totally empathize with. It's pretty clear that most of this comes from her mother's treatment of her, and her dad's neglect. Her dad does seem to care, but he seems pretty hands-off, so much so that it doesn't make much of a difference. Amy's mom is one of those women who is so completely focused on appearances; she wants everything to be perfect, and criticizes Amy constantly for not reaching her standards. Her mother just does not listen to her; in fact, when someone asks Amy a question, her mom almost always answers, not trusting Amy to even speak for herself properly. Sadly, this kind of mother is entirely believable.

Amy is a real girl. She's not especially beautiful or smart or talented or friendly. As a result, she doesn't have anything that really sets her apart, at least in her own view: "It's easy for you to tell me that I'm wasting my life. You think I don't know that? You think I don't know there's nothing that makes me special? That the only thing I may ever do that makes news is, as far as my parents are concerned, the worst thing I've ever done?" (150). Let's be honest. We all want to be special, and we all want to be loved. As an adult or a kid that has your shit together, it's easy to say that her logic is stupid (it is), but, when you feel completely boring and unlovable, pretty much anything feels worthwhile to make that feeling stop. There were two things I wanted to say to Amy throughout the whole book: 1) It gets better 2) "Look at your life, look at your choices."

Pretty Amy is definitely a book that's going to make a lot of readers uncomfortable. It's not a pretty story. There's violence, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and generally teenage angst. However, I do think this is an important book, because it definitely captures the pain of being an awkward, lonely teenager.

Now, make sure you check out my interview with Lisa Burstein!

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Quote:
     "Unfortunately, I am only myself. I am scared and alone and unsure, but I am practicing. I am scared and alone and unsure, but that doesn't mean I always will be
     Like AJ repearing words, I can repeat being me, until I start to believe it."

"Jane, be Jane
You're better that way
Not when you're trying
Imitating something
You think you saw
So Jane, be Jane
And if sometimes that might
Drive them away
Let them stay there
You don't
 Need them anyway

You're worried there might not be 
Anything at all inside
But that you're worried
Should tell you that's not right
Don't try to see yourself
The way that others do
It's no use."

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