RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Flawless by Lara Chapman


Title: Flawless
Author: Lara Chapman
Publication Info: Bloomsbury 2011
ISBN: 978-1599906317
Genre: Young Adult

Flawless by Lara ChapmanThis RITA Reader Challenge review is from Dane. This book is nominated in the “Best YA Romance” category for the RITAs this year. 

The summary: Sarah Burke is just about perfect. She's got killer blue eyes, gorgeous blond hair, and impeccable grades. There's just one tiny-all right, enormous-flaw: her nose. But even that's not so bad. Sarah's got the best best friend and big goals for print journalism fame.

On the first day of senior year, Rock Conway walks into her journalism class and, well, rocks her world. Problem is, her best friend, Kristen, falls for him too. And when Rock and Kristen stand together, it's like Barbie and Ken come to life. So when Kristen begs Sarah to help her nab Rock, Sarah does the only thing a best friend can do-she agrees. For someone so smart, what was she thinking? 

And here is Dane's review:  

There's something to be said for a novel that doesn't fall into the known pitfalls of certain tropes. Subverted expectations are delightful! As are retellings (I'm an absolute sucker for them), and as I'd never encountered a Cyrano revisitation, I couldn't resist. And overall I was not disappointed; the author managed to subvert my expectations most of the time and delivered an ending that didn't feel convenient or forced. There were some problems, however, and as seems appropriate for a story about Cyrano, a lot of them are related to Sarah's nose.

(I promise, I tried to come up with a nose pun. Sorry to disappoint, but I came up blank.)

Sarah, in the role of Cyrano, has a big nose, which she inherited from her mother, a broadcast journalist who got a nose job the second she turned eighteen. Said mother apparently starts each school year by giving her daughter a pamphlet for nose jobs. Now pause for a second; why would you do this at the start of a school year? If Sarah suddenly agreed she'd be out of school for however long it takes those things to heal up. This seems like poor timing to me, and thus was thinly-veiled as the author's way of introducing the opposing views of Sarah's nose. This was the start of the book, and so I started off wary that I was in for more of the same.

As the story progressed, there were awkward moments that were obviously meant to demonstrate: (a) how Sarah manages the teasing she receives thanks to her nose, and (b) teenagers are still jerks. Now, I don't mean these were awkward in an empathetic way: I didn't feel awkward because I was in Sarah's shoes and thus felt those stares and comments myself. I say awkward because, well, I wasn't in Sarah's shoes. The situations came away feeling slightly forced and out of place. Not to mention one of the methods for “handling” the stares, implemented with the help of Sarah's friend Kristen, actually only made me eye Kristen and prepare myself to be body-checked into an unsavory female-friend trope.

But! Remember when I said this subverted my expectations? I had serious worries that the best friend in this book would fall into the man-stealing trope, the bitch-on-wheels trope, the I'm-only-friends-with-you-because-it-makes-me-look-better trope. And while there were some hints at these tropes, Kristen sidestepped them all and left me pleasantly surprised. She proved herself to be a good friend to Sarah, if a bit selfish at times and blind to what Sarah might want.

Speaking of being pleasantly surprised, let's raise a glass for giving us a nontraditional family! Sarah's mom had Sarah using artificial insemination, and there's no father figure present. No hint of her mom even looking for one! Of course, this turns out to be a plot point, and one that I didn't really enjoy: here came the stereotypes, and a (probably unintentional) message about being homosexual. The entire circumstance was a method to demonstrate the strength of Sarah's love and character, but I didn't like the implication leftover in the aftermath, that certain sexual orientations were something shameful.

Sarah proves herself to be strong and loyal, however, and overall a good friend. I enjoyed watching the author show us, through Kristen and Sarah, how sometimes people do things, knowing they're probably not the right thing, but needing to do it. Not in order to preserve a friendship but because, deep down, you truly want your friends to be happy. These two have a great friendship, and it was nice to see that sometimes, even the strongest friendships face challenges, and these can be overcome. And no matter what you think is your biggest flaw, it doesn't mean people can't and don't love you totally—not despite them but simply because they are part of you.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | All Romance eBooks.

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