Pretty Face by Mary Hogan

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Pretty Face by Mary Hogan

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: Hayley is not especially content in her current life, and comfort eats her way to happiness, so is thrilled with the chance to spend the summer abroad, away from her family while she tried to get a handle on her eating habits. But with the destination being the Pizza, Pasta and Gelato soaked Italy, this won't be as easy as she imagines.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: February 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1847382283

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Sixteen year old Hayley is struggling through life in Southern California with a very un-Southern California bod and a pretty un-Southern California family life. Instead of being a rich, pretty, thin girl, she's always "the funny one" or, at best, "a pretty face". And she's getting quite fed up with it. When she realises her first real crush is very interested... in someone else, she begins to loose all hope of ever fitting in, getting a boyfriend or slimming to a weight her mother will ever be happy with. Out of the blue she's thrown a lifeline - a chance to break away from the tanned, toned, Hollywood elite and to spend her summer in somewhere a little less low key, where the folk are a little less high maintenance and appearance-obsessed. She's off to rural Italy for ten weeks, and she can't wait.

When Hayley gets there, things aren't quite what she is used to. Her host family are laid back and afford her a lot more freedom than her own parents do. She has to work out all the rules of life in a new country, from the food to the opening times of the shops, to whether or not it is entirely appropriate to flirt with strange boys on the cobbled streets, but she attacks the challenge with a smile and soon, to her delight and surprise, she's having a summer she could never have dreamed of.

This is such a lovely book. The people are pleasant, their messages simple, and the food just sounds divine. You get the impression the author has been to Italy herself, which of course helps, and though it goes without saying, you also get the impression she too was once a teenage girl. Though Hayley is an overweight teen who struggles through half-hearted attempts at diets, this book isn't as obsessed with her weight and she and her mother are. We don't know how much she weighs at the beginning, or at the end, just the more useful differences like when her clothes begin to feel a little looser.

The language of this short (208 pages) book is simple, but the themes get quite advanced in places, so I think this is one more for GCSE years and up (including reluctant readers), rather than younger girls, unless their usual reading material includes passionate romps by the lakeside and in remote faux-castles. It's a book I would have loved to read when I spent the summer alone in Italy as a 17 year old, though I might have ended up quite jealous of the adventures Hayley has.

Thank you to the publishers, Simon and Schuster, for supplying this book. More advanced readers might also like Sea Change , another tale of teen romance on foreign shores while adults looking for an Italian escape of their own could try The Gypsy Tearoom or The Food of Love.

Booklists.jpg Pretty Face by Mary Hogan is in the Top Ten Teen Chick Lit Books.

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