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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

'Flawless' by Lara Chapman

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

Sarah Burke is just about perfect. She has killer blue eyes, gorgeous blonde hair and impeccable school grades. She has just one tiny flaw – her nose! But even that’s not so bad as Sarah has the bestest friend and big goals for print journalism fame.

On the first day of senior year, Rock Conway walks into Sarah’s journalism class and rocks her world. The problem is, her best friend, Kristen, falls for him too, and when Rock and Kristen stand together, it’s like Barbie and Ken come to life. So when Kristen begs Sarah to help her attract Rock, Sarah does the only thing a best friend can do – she agrees. What was she thinking?

Sarah Burke has heard it all – honker, big-nose, bird-beak . . . really, Sarah has heard every variation of the many biting remarks about her biggest physical attribute – her nose. She hears it in the school hallways, sees it in the passing eyes of strangers, heck even her mother (the beautiful Texan anchorman) is not-so-subtly urging her daughter to get rhinoplasty and correct her genetic misfortune.

Luckily Sarah has an iron will and a deep fear of hacking surgeons. And with her best friend, (and winner of the genetic lottery) Kristen at her back, most of the nasty comments don't touch her.

But then Rockford Conway comes to town. Rockford ‘Rock’ is beautiful – an Adonis come to life. And the cherry on top is that he’s wicked smart – even sharing Sarah’s love of literature. So it’s just a shame that Rock is quickly smitten with the beautiful Kristen, and Sarah is relegated to being her best friend’s shadow.

Unluckily for Kristen, she and Rock have nothing in common. He loves Charles Dickens, and she thinks ‘David Copperfield’ is about a magician. He adores impressionist paintings, and she loves comedic impersonators. It’s an ill-fated match . . . until Kristen convinces (okay, begs and hassles) Sarah to do some covert flirting via Facebook and text-messaging. But what starts as a romantic boost to help her best friend soon turns into an inner tug-of-war; as Sarah battles her growing infatuation with Rock and her needling frustration with her biggest enemy – her nose.

‘Flawless’ is the contemporary romance YA debut novel from Lara Chapman.

With ‘Flawless’, Chapman modernizes the 1897 classic French play of Cyrano de Bergerac. In the play, big-nosed Cyrano woos the lovely Roxane on behalf of his conventionally handsome but inarticulate friend. The play has been adapted to film, most notably in the form of Steve Martin’s 1987 movie ‘Roxanne’ and the 1996 Uma Thurman movie, ‘The Truth about Cats and Dogs’.

In ‘Flawless’ Chapman takes Cyrano to a Texan high school and puts his bothersome big nose on a seventeen-year-old girl . . . with funny and compassionate results.

The tale of Cyrano is brilliantly retold for the younger set. It’s a wonderfully quirky story about inner beauty and outward appearance and how love is more than skin-deep. And it’s a perfectly-pitched story for modern day . . . in today’s world when pop stars get nose jobs to correct their ‘deviated septum’ and air-brushing sets the standard for the average woman.

Sarah was just lovely. She’s a little bit geeky and wonderfully loyal to her best friend, Kristen. But most of all Sarah is brave . . . high school is hard enough, but when someone is forced to wear their difference on their face for the whole world to see, high school can be a real battlefield.

Let’s face it. I've had seventeen years to think about the way people see me. And how I see myself. Nine days out of ten, I’m happy to stay exactly the way I am. But on that tenth day . . .

Sarah tries to stop her nose from getting in her way. She is very aware of her big-nosed short-comings, but for the most part she takes her differences in stride . . . refusing to back down or drop her gaze when someone stops and stares at her biggest feature, and quick to snipe back when a cruel remark comes her way. She’s at once brilliantly fearless, while also hiding behind a lot of armour. Without realizing the extent of her shields, Sarah often cuts her nose off to spite her face (so to speak) – she’s quick to reject people before they can reject her, and she prefers to be a loner (save for Kristen) rather than face the cruelty of others;

Mom stops stroking my head and tweaks my nose, something she used to do when I was little. When I was five, I loved it. But I've long since forbade her – or anyone else for that matter – from touching IT.
I swat at her hand. “You know I hate that.”
“Lighten up, Sarah. There’s so much more to you than your nose. For someone who’s hell-bent on keeping her God-given nose, you sure do blame it for a lot of your problems.”

‘Flawless’ does have some flaws. The character of Rock is fairly one-dimensional, a cardboard cut-out heartthrob with no real personality beyond being every shy girl’s dream guy. Even his dialogue is out of step with his youthfulness, at one point calling a group of bikers ‘punks’ (seriously? Next he’ll be calling his fellow classmates ‘whipper snippers’ and complaining that the music is too loud).

I also thought there would be more tension and contention between Sarah and her mother. The opening scene of ‘Flawless’ has Sarah coming down for breakfast and finding a brochure on rhinoplasty where her napkin should be. I thought that was rather brutal . . . but what starts out as a promising conflict between an insecure mother and her valiant daughter quickly slides into a more lukewarm ‘Gilmore Girls’ relationship of female solidarity. It’s a shame that Chapman seems to have missed this opportunity to explore the ramifications of parental pressures of perfection on children. Because there was plenty of opportunity for mother-daughter drama; especially because Mother Burke is a Texan anchorwoman who underwent plastic surgery when she was Sarah’s age to correct the very same genetic monstrosity on her face.

I liked ‘Flawless’ for being a wonderful retelling of the Cyrano tale. There’s a lot of heart to this story, and Chapman beautifully communicated the message of acceptance via the plight of a high school girl grappling with her first real crush. Sure, the story could have been heightened by including some parental pressures, and the love interest could have been fleshed-out and given some flaws of his own. But ‘Flawless’ was still a lovely YA contemporary romance about how hard it is ‘to thine own self be true’.

4/5

1 comment:

  1. great review Danielle!

    I have a serious problem with protagonists that are interested in a boy but just because the best friend is too, they decided to hide it to help out the friend.

    Yeah, sure, friendship is important, but it should be a two-way-street and said friend should be up to doing the same no?

    that sort of storyline bothers the hell out of me and it is a very annoying tendency in mostly YA novels =/

    Sounds like the shallow mother-daughter conflict and cardboard personality hero dont help either LOL

    well, this didnt sound like something I's enjoy anyway, but the Cyrano upside down idea was interesting enough.

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