Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fresh, Upbeat Perspective a Big Plus in Brainiac-Turns-Supermodel Story

(Image from Barnes & Noble)


Bee Wilson loves her life in New York. The brainy 17-year-old is taking advanced classes at Columbia University, tutoring an up-and-coming rapper for $20 an hour, and dating the most caring guy on Earth. When said boyfriend drops her like a ton of bricks, Bee's shattered. If Brian, the patron saint of lost causes, doesn't want her, who would? Drowning her sorrows in thick slices of pizza, takeout from Ollie's Noodle Shop, and giant muffins at Dean and DeLuca soothes her soul, but packs 25 extra pounds onto her tall frame. She's so down that she thinks it's a joke when a modeling scout encourages her to try plus-sized modeling. Only, the woman's serious. With the encouragement of a friend (another of Brian's scorned lovers), Bee checks out the gig. Before she can say "runway," she's jetting off to Italy, making $5000 a day to wear fancy clothes and smile into a camera.

Although modeling looks like the cakiest job around, Bee soon discovers it's a whole lot of work. Not only does she have to please picky photogs, but she has to work out with her personal trainer, attend "go sees," shun real food, and deal with jealous supermodels. There are perks, of course, like the clothes, the traveling, the chubby teenagers who look up to her, and the fact that Brian is going to come crawling back to her when he realizes how successful she is. The downside is her grades are slipping, her best friend's feeling neglected, her favorite rapper's not impressed with the new Bee, and Brian's nowhere in sight. Bee's working so hard to hold it all together - why is everything falling apart?

Everyone tells Bee the same thing: Just be yourself. But who is that, really? The Prada-clad supe grinning out at the world from billboards and magazine covers? Or the brainiac who spends all her time hiding out in the library? Is she some combination of the two or none of the above? Who does she have to be to get Brian back in her life? As Bee sashays down the runway, she'll have to decide who she is, what she wants, and where she's going. Along the way, she'll discover that things are rarely what they appear to be, disasters often beget opportunities, and the road to self-discovery can be the scariest, most exciting path a girl will ever travel.

Although Plus by Veronica Chambers delves into body issues, it's not one of those annoying how-I-learned-to-love-my-body books. Bee's not thrilled with her weight gain, but she's not obsessing about it either. She's okay with being plus-sized. The story's more about Bee finding her inner diva, summoning the strength and courage to be who she really is. I love that Plus radiates this fresh, healthy perspective. I also liked Bee's funny, down-to-Earth voice and the insider's look into worlds (Ivy League, modeling, New York glam) I have never - and will never - experience. It's a fun story. The plot is, of course, far-fetched and pretty predictable. It also meanders around quite a bit, becoming dull in places, thin in others. I got irritated with Bee's inability to see what was right in front of her (for a smart girl, she can be amazingly clueless) and I thought Chambers sometimes tried to hard to get the teenage lingo down. Plus isn't going to make my favorites list, but I still enjoyed this fresh, upbeat story about struttng your true self down the runway of life. The timeless message it preaches is always a good one: Bee You.

(Readalikes: Hm, I dunno on this one. Suggestions?)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for mild language (no F-bombs) and sexual content

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Plus from the generous folks at Razorbill. Thank you!

6 comments:

  1. hmmm, sounds interesting. i'll have to try it when i need a light, beach read sometime.

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  2. Is the main character a PoC? I know the author is Panamanian but I wasn't sure about the main character... Regardless, I think I will read Plus when I get the chance.

    Sounds like a read-alike could be Fat Hoochie Prom Queen by Nico Medina. It's a fun read about a girl who is big and she doesn't care. She rarely mentions it in fact, other people talk about her weight, but she does not. I liked it. Not a fav, but good.

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  3. Tara - Yeah, it's kind of fun. If you want the ARC, I'll set it aside for you.

    Ari - No, the MC is white. Is Chambers Panamanian? I thought she was African American, but I wasn't sure as I didn't see any bio info on her website. Thanks so much for letting me know that this is NOT a Baby Steps book. I appreciate it :)

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  4. Okay, after a little research (check out this article: http://www.veronicachambers.com/secret.html), I've discovered that Chambers is half Panamanian (on her mother's side) and half (1/4?) Black (her father's family is from Jamaica and Costa Rica). According to the article, her ethnicity is officially known as Afro-Antillianos.

    It's a really interesting article about racial/cultural identity.

    I think I'll keep the book labeled as a Baby Steps book since Chambers is definitely a woman of color and she writes about people of all ethnicities. Fair?

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  5. I definitely need to read this book. For some reason I love fashion related YA lit.

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  6. Oh I didn't mean to suggest it isn't a Baby Steps book! I was merely curious as to the ethnicity of the main character, because no one had menitoned it but I knew Chambers was half Panmanian (as I am and since she is one of maybe two writers who write about Panamanians I was familar with her work. lol)

    I would say keep it as a Baby Steps :)

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