Seventeen-year-old Melanie Kennicut is beautiful. Her entire life revolves around this beauty because her overly controlling mother has been dragging her to casting calls and auditions since she was four years old. According to Joanne Kennicut, Melanie was born to follow in her footsteps. But Melanie never wanted this life. When a freak car accident leaves her with facial lacerations that will require plastic surgery, she can't help but wonder if this is the answer to her prayers. For the first time in her life, she has a chance to live like a normal teenager at least for a little while away from the photo shoots and movie sets that have dominated her entire existence. But after Melanie allows her best friend to come to the house to see her, Joanne decides to hide her daughter in Montana for the remainder of the summer. There, Melanie won't be seen by anyone they know, and her face will heal in time for the scheduled surgery in late August. Joanne’s plan backfires, however, when Melanie meets Sam, a Native American boy hired by the home's owner to tend to the property. Sam is nothing like the Hollywood boys Melanie knows he's poor, his father's a drunk who possesses a bizarre gift inherited from a Kootenai Shaman, and his only brother disappeared into the mountains after the death of their mother eight years before. What transpires over a mere 36 hours after Sam and Melanie meet changes both of their lives in ways they never thought possible.
The premise of Beautiful Girl peaked my interest and I was really looking forward to the story that it hinted at, a girl learning about inner beauty and gaining personal strength from it, but unfortunately it fell short of the mark for me.
Melanie, the main character and narrator of the story, felt very one dimensional to me and I just couldn’t connect with her. The situation she was in sucked, I can’t deny that, but I just couldn’t find a spark in her that made her all that interesting as a person and didn’t really see too much of a change between the Melanie we meet in the beginning of the story and the one at the end of the story. Sam was likeable enough, but fell into the same category as Melanie. The relationship that forms between Melanie and Sam is, for lack of a better word, sudden and the insta love that comes out of it had me scratching my head. I don’t typically have an issue with insta-love, but in this case it just didn’t work for me and felt forced. The rest of the characters had me feeling much the same way, but the one character that I did find interesting and added some sparks of life to the story was Joe, Sam’s father. He had something of a stereotypical in the story, but I liked what he brought to the table.
The story moves quickly and a lot happens but it felt choppy, like the pieces just didn’t fit right together. There were parts that started and ended abruptly and all I could think was: That’s it? Especially when it came to the moments, which there were quite a few, that were set up to be highly emotional. I’m not one that likes it when things are drawn out for drama’s sake, but there could have been a little more meat to some of the moments to garner more of an emotional punch.
Overall: I really wanted to like Beautiful Girl, and the potential for it be a good story is there, it just unfortunately wasn’t for me.
~ ARC received from SparkPress via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ~
Fleur Philips is an award-winning author who holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Montana. Her first novel, I Am Lucky Bird, was selected as a General Fiction Finalist for the 2011 Book of the Year Award from ForeWord Reviews. Her current novel, Crumble, was named Young Adult Winner from the 2013 San Francisco Book Festival and was selected as a Young Adult Fiction Finalist by the 2013 International Book Awards. Additionally, Crumble is a Silver Medalist in the 2013 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards in the category of Young Adult, Mature Issues. Most recently, it was named a YA Fiction Finalist in the USA Best Book Awards from USA Book News. Fleur lives in Whitefish, Montana with her son.