Monday, 15 June 2009

Review - Fairest Of Them All / Jan Blazanin

Summary -If life were a fairy tale, Oribella Bettencourt would have a "happily ever after" kind of future ahead of her. A Hollywood producer has come to Des Moines in search of a perfectly modern Princess Rapunzel, and Ori -- a model, dancer, and star of the beauty pageant circuit -- lands the part. And why shouldn't she? With her hardworking, self-sacrifi cing mother guiding her career, Ori is stunning, dedicated, poised...and then there's her hair. Breathtakingly lustrous blond hair that sets her apart from all the other girls at school. So what if she doesn't have any friends her age, or anyone to talk to other than her mother? She's on the verge of having everything she's ever dreamed of.

But in this fairy tale, the beautiful princess wakes up to her worst nightmare -- when almost overnight, Ori begins to lose her hair...

Review - While I credit Blazanin for tackling the relatively low profile, hair loss condition alopecia, I am not sure she was entirely successful in writing a novel that broke the mold. Oribella (yikes) has been trained to be a superstar since the age of three. With the assistance of her focused mother, she's aiming to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Amongst all the preparation, competition and some more preparation, Ori forgot to have something called a life.

Ori is what is kindly called socially inept. She can schmooze pageant judges and talk it up with costume designers but put her in a room of teens and she's an ice block. It broke my heart that this girl is pushed so hard, to meet so many unattainable goals, by a uncompromising mother towards superficial success. Ori's evolution into an average teen with friends but no hair was a great transition. However, my problems with the novel stem purely from the aspects that deal with the mother. The mother flip flops twice in the book and it's the second flip that felt out of character, rushed and ultimately clunky. While I understood and sympathised with the sentiment that Blazanin was trying to convey, it comes across forced and unnatural.

Fairest Of Them All provides great insight into the expectations we place upon ourselves, parental pressure, friendship, independence and finding joy. A great read.

Published: April 21, 2009
Format: Paperback, 256 pages
Publisher: MTV
Origin: USA
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MssJos said...

I recently read this novel and enjoyed it - I wanted to choke Ori's mom through most of it...

Thanks for the review!

a flight of minds said...

Great review! I'm really interested in this book. The name Oribella is a turn off though...

- Alex

ali said...

I'm with Alex - I'm not sure I could cope with repeated reading 'Oribella'. But it does sound a really interesting read!