Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction Literary Prizes and Award include Kirkus Reviews, 9/1/2008; Publishers Weekly, 9/29/2008; School Library Journal, 1/1/2009; Library Media Connection, 3/1/2009; and Horn Book, 4/1/2009. Format: Print Selection Process: Pretty Like Us was chosen for wining many literary awards including the 2009 Language Arts Honor Book for Grades 7-12 by the Society of School Librarians International (SSLI), Kirkus Reviews in 2008; Publishers Weekly in 2008; School Library Journal in 2009; Library Media Connection in 2009; and Horn Book in 2009. Review: Age 12 Up. Carol Lynch Williams begins this story in the small town of Green River, Florida with a twelve year old girl named Shy Beauty McElwrath, on her first day of sixth grade which end up being a total catastrophe. Beautys world begins to change when a new girl transfers to her school, Alane Shriver, but the class also shuns her because she looks like she is seventy years old. Through the encouragement of Beautys grandmother, Maggie McElwrath, her mother, and teacher, Beauty becomes friends with Alane, she overcomes her fear of her condition and through their bonding, she understand that Alane is the same as any other twelve year old girl on the inside, who exhibits confidence and is a smart, upbeat girl who has an adventurous, fun-loving side. Publishers Weekly (2005) says the validity of Beauty's feelings compensates for sometimes cloying first-person narration ("A big ol' glob of sadness made tears come to my eyes"); the circumstances created by Alane's Progeria, rare as it is, will be recognizable to readers as their own social conflicts writ large. School Library Journal (2009) says that Alanes voice is consistent and easy to believe.
I was disappointed because this could have been a great story, maybe along the lines of Star Girl, but the author did not develop her characters and their relationships very well.
Beauty meets Alane, a new girl at school, who has a terminal disease that makes her appear to be an old woman. This novel would be great given to middle school readers so they could see the repercussions of bullying as well as the rewarding feeling of befriending others, especially if that person has been out casted. I might have the students work in small groups to create a twist to the story including elements such as "What would have happened if Alane had looked like a normal middle school student?" "Would Beauty have befriended Alane if she had been friends with her other classmates?" and/or "Would the story have changed if Beauty's great-grandmother had not died?".
As the school year begins, the students learn that they will be joined by a new student, a girl named Alane. Beauty wants to befriend the new girl, but she knows that this is also an opportunity to become part of the in crowd. Making friends with Alane will seal her fate on the outside. Unfortunately, the hokiness and preachiness tends to predominate, making the whole thing feel like an old Afterschool Special.
At first, Beauty, makes fun of her to get on the good side of other kids, but quickly realizes how bad this makes her feel when she sees the pain on Alane's face. The two become fast friends...and Alane, along with Beauty, do things normal kids do, even when they are dangerous. Bad memories come blazing back for Beauty, since her great-grandmother did drown in the same river saving Beauty's life when she was three.
The fact that her 26 year old mom is dating her teacher doesnt seem to be helping the situation. However when Alane Shriver , a twelve year old girl who suffers from the aging disease progeria, shows up, Beauty is encouraged to befriend her by all the important people in her life, but Beauty sees another opportunity.
I love that Beauty's family drills good morals in her. I loved Beauty's reaction to Alane's appearance. I wish the world could look upon everyone the way this book looks upon Alane.
Carol has an MFA from Vermont College in Writing for Children and Young Adults and teaches creative writing at BYU.