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I Belong

Review: Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu

Making PrettyTitleMaking Pretty

AuthorCorey Ann Haydu

Genre: YA Contemporary

Series: N/A

Publication Date: May 12, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062294083 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062294081 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Kaitlin


Montana and her older sister Arizona have always been a team, sticking together through their plastic surgeon dad’s string of divorces—and his not-so-subtle belief that “surgical assists” can be an asset to any woman. But when Arizona comes home from college with a boob job, the rift between the sisters feels insurmountable.

As summer in New York City heats up and Montana and Arizona grow apart, Montana befriends wild, bold, 23-year-old Karissa, who encourages her to live in Technicolor and chase new experiences—like a cute boy in the park. Bernardo becomes a beautiful distraction, and he looks at Montana in the way she wants to be seen. For the first time, she understands how you can become both lost and found in somebody else. But when that love becomes everything, where does it leave the rest of her imperfect life?

Quick & Dirty: Unforgettable and breathtaking, Making Pretty explored raw, complex emotions while creating a unprecedented set of characters that destroyed me completely.

Opening Sentence: June 2nd: A List of Things to Be Grateful For.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Montana’s life isn’t going too great. Her father is a plastic surgeon, obsessed with creating the most flawless possible women, including his two daughters. Her mother left them: her, her sister, her father. They haven’t seen her in awhile, and all the contact between them is within a birthday card once a year. Since then her father has been through a long series of divorces and girlfriends. He sucks them in, fixes them up to his ideal with plastic surgery, then spits them out. Since Montana’s sister and best friend left for college she’s been all alone except for the beautiful 23 year old actress that she’s met, someone who seems to understand her, someone who has a tragic backstory and whom Montana thinks could be her replacement best friend. Except she’s more than that. If Montana’s father has his way, this new friend will be his new girlfriend, possibly stepmother.

Montana was a complex character, one that I really enjoyed exploring. She constantly suffered with feeling not good enough, faking a smile and trying as hard as possible to fit in. This insecurity made her a relatable character but also hit super hard. It dated back to her thirteenth birthday when her father gave her a gift certificate for free plastic surgery when she turned eighteen, a promise that he would fix whatever was still wrong with her then. She was also suffering because her sister left for college and took her best friend with her, Roxanne. They are experiencing new things without her, and she felt entirely left out, and it didn’t help that her sister came back with a new boob job, which makes her feel betrayed. Her emotions were constantly so strong, so raw, that at certain points I had to put down the book and separate myself from her head. She was one of those characters that was hovering on the edge of depression but wasn’t quite there yet.

Her romance with Bernardo was also a highlight of the book, especially toward the end. Her whole life she had watched these women of her fathers come and go like the seasons, and all she knows is that she wants the kind of love that lasts. She doesn’t know what kind of love that is, however, having never been in love. She barely knows who her true family is, at some points. My emotions toward their relationship shifted as the book went on. It started out light and cute, a crush, but then bloomed into something consuming and large. The passion was so great that it was hard for Montana to get a grasp on reality when she was with him, she got so caught up in the flurry of emotions. One thing I did enjoy about their romance was that, unlike her father and his wives, Montana and Bernardo supported each other the way they were, instead of looking for flaws to fix.

There are quite a few other problems that play a part in this riveting, complex book by Haydu, much like her other book I reviewed (Life by Committee). One of those was the constant pull towards both of the girls rooted in her life – Karissa, her friend and her father’s new girl, and her sister Arizona. She feels a certain loyalty to Arizona after all of these years being the only stable parts of their family. But she also feels a bond with Karissa and all the things they shared together before her father’s relationship with the young girl screwed it all up. At points the two are fighting over her, and she can’t find middle ground. Stick with one, betray the other. It was hard to watch her moral dilemma. Another problem was how she treated the stepmoms. Arizona and Montana have always played little games and played fun at their father’s romances. For example, they have on game where they bet on how long a relationship will last, and the closest at the end of the relationship gets a little prize. It’s the only way to ground themselves and make sure they remain unhurt and don’t get too attached — if hope grew, it would only shatter them when things fell apart. But does this make them bad people, the way they poke fun at other’s lives?

I have to say that this book was completely riveting. It totally immersed me in Montana’s lives and emotions, as well as the emotions of the other characters, which were just as strong. That was one thing that Haydu did incredibly. She created a world in which even the side characters had many different facets and played different parts in building the main character’s world. This book destroyed me at points. I am not a book crier, I don’t cry very easily, but I swear that I almost did reading this novel. Unforgettable and breathtaking, Making Pretty explored raw, complex emotions while creating a unprecedented set of characters that destroyed me completely. I would totally recommend this book to lovers of The Fault in Our Stars and other sad contemporaries — this is not a fluffy book.

Notable Scene:

“I’d never done any of this before,” Tess said. “Movie night and making dinner and worrying about you getting home by curfew and cleaning the blades of the ceiling fan and saying I love you to someone every night before bed. That was all new to me.”

“Yeah. See, it wasn’t really new to us,” I said.

“That’s the worst fucking thing I’ve ever heard,” Tess said. “This should make you feel something.” She pointed to her pile of moving boxes, the truck outside, the burly man heaving the boxes from our apartment to the truck.

“I mean, we’ll miss you for sure,” I said, but I knew it wasn’t convincing enough. I couldn’t muster up tears or even a crack in my voice or a big sigh or anything.

“Today I feel bad for me,” she said, “But in, like, six months I’m only going to feel bad for you.”


FTC Advisory: Katherine Tegan Books/HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Making Pretty. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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