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Teen Picks: “Ordinary Beauty” by Laura Weiss

Ordinary Beauty by Laura Wiess

What is it about? How can you make someone love you when they won’t?

And what if that person happens to be your mother?

Sayre Bellavia grew up knowing she was a mistake: unplanned and unwanted. At five months shy of eighteen, she’s become an expert in loneliness, heartache, and neglect. Her whole life she’s been cursed, used, and left behind. Swallowed a thousand tears and ignored a thousand deliberate cruelties. Sayre’s stuck by her mother through hell, tried to help her, be near her, be important to her even as her mother slipped away into a violent haze of addiction, destroying the only chance Sayre ever had for a real family.

Now her mother is lying in a hospital bed, near death, ravaged by her own destructive behavior. And as Sayre fights her way to her mother’s bedside, she is terrified but determined to get the answer to a question no one should ever have to ask: Did my mother ever really love me? And what will Sayre do if the answer is yes?

Summary courtesy of Goodreads

What did you think about it and why did you pick it up? Laura Wiess is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. She captured my heart in Such a Pretty Girl with its vivid imagery, strong female lead, and gritty theme and she did it again with Ordinary Beauty.

Originally I was worried that the protagonist, Sayre, would be exactly like Meredith from Such a Pretty Girl but in the end the premise of both books were just so different that it never seemed that way. Yes, they were similar. Each book centered on a child that had been physically and emotionally hurt by an unstable and crazy parent. But Such a Pretty Girl centered more on defeating the parent where as Ordinary Beauty focused more on understanding and accepting the past. Another difference was that Meredith was, for the most part, a static character. In the beginning she was determined to put her father back in jail, despite still being afraid, and in the end she kept her determined attitude but was no longer afraid. Sayre, however, changed a lot. She went from hating her mother for never helping either of them in life to accepting the life she was given and changing it for the better. Besides, even if they had been similar, it wouldn’t have mattered that much because ! I quickly became distracted by Wiess’s gorgeous language.

Another quality that I adore about Wiess is her world-building. Usually you would only see a word like “world-building” in science fiction or fantasy novels, but this trait is definitely evident in all of Wiess’s books as well. The two I read both had a large cast of characters, and each person had a past and a relevance to the story. I love books with lots of characters, at least the ones done well. This is probably because I enjoy creating multiple side-characters in my own writing. You can do almost anything with them. They are everything the protagonist isn’t allowed to be (un-relatable is the big character trait I’m talking about here) and that’s extremely fun to play with.

There were a lot of characters that I hated in this book, though. And I don’t mean, I hated them because they were badly developed and sucked, I mean that some of the people in this novel were so terrible it made me want to hit them REALLY HARD. For example, Candy Fee, Dianne’s (Sayre’s mother) best friend. The woman that made sure to drag her down, the person that was always there to say “HEY! We’re doing drugs and being idiots, so you should come.” I despise people like this, who are so pathetic they feel the need to make other people be pathetic with them. Yes, Candy did stay with Dianne until the very end but she’s also the one that gave her a lot of the drugs that killed her. What a great friend, huh? This proves that Laura Wiess is once again, a wonderful writer for creating villains so realistic I had issues not screaming at them out loud.

Overall Ordinary Beauty was a great book. I didn’t like it as much as Such a Pretty girl but it still had all the elements that really draw me into a novel, although I do wish that the romance would have developed a little more. That’s just me being an old sap though. I liked that by the time I reached the last page I actually began to sympathize for Sayre’s mother. That doesn’t mean I stopped hating her and all the things she’d done but I did see that it was necessary for Sayre to forgive Dianne in order for her to be able to move on with her life.

P.S. I almost forget to mention that I’m very jealous of the way that Laura Wiess begins and ends her chapters and books. It’s a small thing but it’s a great quality to have and it certainly stood out.

RATING: ★★★★ It was really good. I’ve already told my friends about it.

I would suggest this for: Mature teenage readers

Review by: Lauren

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