Wednesday, July 01, 2020

The Prettiest

Young, Brigit. The Prettiest
April 14th 2020 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

When a list of the 50 "prettiest" girls in the middle school makes the rounds, no one is happy. Not Eve, who is shocked to find herself on the top, not Sophie, who despite her efforts to be prettiest is number two, and not Nessa, Eve's friend, who doesn't make the list but is more concerned about how it affects Eve. The administration makes counseling available, informs parents, and makes every effort to put a stop to the situation, but it's not enough. Eve, who feels uncomfortable about her new body, is suddenly faced with the attention of Brody, whom the girls suspect made the list, and is also the object of Sophie's wrath. Sophie, who has a difficult and economically disadvantaged home life, suspects Brody because she did not return his affections. Nessa, who is very talented and is involved in the school play, wants to help both girls, and they try to find the culprit and plan the revenge, calling their group the Shieldmaidens. The adults in the book represent a wide variety of opinions-- Eve's father thinks she should be pleased, even as her brother Abe understands that objectification is wrong; other parents at the school meeting think their sons should be made aware of the situation so it can be fixed; the school principal has followed protocol but realizes more should be done, even if she doesn't know what that is. In the end, the girls find the creator of the list after almost punishing the wrong person, and the school has a new awareness of how people should treat each other.
Strengths: This is absolutely on trend with its themes of treatment of people, body positivity, and the ideal of feminine beauty and worth. I liked that Eve's Jewish culture was brought into the story, but that the story was not all about that. It was also good to see Sophie and Eve work together instead of just fighting with each other, and Sophie's back story was interesting. There was just enough of the school play (The Music Man, which my school just did!), and the reactions of a wide variety of students were brought in as well.
Weaknesses: I was glad when the girls did not go through with their revenge. Answering mistreatment with mistreatment is not the answer. Also, even though Brody didn't make the list, I would have liked to see him get some needed time with a school counselor on how to treat people kindly.
What I really think: I preferred Dee's Maybe He Just Likes You because there was more of an effort to educate the boys in the school about how people should be treated. Middle school students act in the ways they are taught to act, and they often don't quite understand why what they are doing is wrong and need to learn what they should be doing instead, but I will probably buy this.
Ms. Yingling

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