Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu

When a strong sisterhood is disrupted by one of the Varren girls going off to college in Maine the other is left to her own devices in the hustle and bustle of New York City. Leaving her to deal with her playboy father and his most recent divorce, catching up with her other college friends, drinking, smoking and being a general rebel –all while developing a crush on the boy across the park bench. Montana yearns all year for her sister to return from college, wholly believing that her reappearance will set the world right again. When her sister does finally return she quickly learns that her sister’s presence won’t fix everything and can actually make things even more off kilter then they were before.

This summer is promised to be the best summer ever where the sisterhood of Arizona, Montana and Roxanne are reunited with a new addition of Karissa and hopefully Bernardo. But of course it wouldn’t be that simple and easy. Arizona returns home having used her certificate given to her by their father and one of their step-mothers that gave her any free cosmetic surgery of her choice, in the case of Arizona it was breast implants. This begins the wedge between Montana and Arizona because they vowed to never get plastic surgery like their Mom and step-moms that eventually made them miserable and leave their Father. Who should be noted as the surgeon conducting these surgeries. The wedge goes deeper and widens as Arizona is introduced to Karissa who she claims to be a bad influence on Montana because she is taking her out to bars and constantly smoking with her. Then Bernardo enters the picture and Arizona despises how quickly and similar to their father Montana falls in love. This story is about family drama, lies, betrayal, love and being a teenager.

This novel puts a lot of effort into the characters and their development, it’s definitely more of the focus than the overarching story. Which I appreciated since characters mean everything to me. So let’s begin with the protagonist, Montana, the girl across the park bench who is in a hurry to grow up and be an adult like Arizona and Roxanne. Montana’s struggles to become independent are a focal point in this novel and typically fall short. Montana is a very dependant character where she needs someone to latch onto in order to feel comfortable as herself. Readers see this with how she relies on her sister to make the majority of their decisions and opinions, with Karissa after Arizona leaves to take her out drinking and smoking to finally Bernardo who defines her burgeoning sexuality. Montana is constantly asking herself “what would so and so think or do?”. Which gets rather frustrating as the story progresses. It should also be noted that Montana is not a reliable narrator in many parts of the books because she is often drunk. Now onto Arizona Montana’s sister who is presented as very kind and considerate, but turns out to be a rather hateful and grudge bearing girl who is the largest hypocrite in the book. Montana relays to the audience that Arizona has always been very against plastic surgery and associated it with the cruel step-mothers. So it’s really surprising when she does get work done and seems really out of character and I thought that it would be delved deeper into and some conclusions could be created by the reader, but nothing is given or inferred by the text. Alright, Bernardo is a quirky guy from the other side of NYC who is willing to dye his hair pink in order to woo a girl and it works. For the most part of the novel Bernardo appears to be the only sane one who is a very positive influence in Montana’s life which I think does help Montana develop more as a character. Guess it’s Karissa next who is Montana’s life preserver after Arizona’s move to Maine that’s willing to take her to bars and go clubbing who I consider to be an awful role model and a very irresponsible adult. Karissa propels the plot forward and definitely receives the most dimension and development throughout the novel making her the most engaging character. Finishing off this section with mention of the father of Montana and Arizona who gets way too little page time, but I think that’s to signify just how absent he is from his daughters’ lives even though his decisions and lifestyle impact them the most.

Overall, this was a story about a teenage girl trying to find herself and not really finding herself. Which is frustrating, but also extremely and devastatingly realistic. Since no teenager has a perfect or reasonable expectation of what they expect to do with their life. Most adults probably don’t either. So what this novel offers is a slew of not your run of the mill characters and a plot that is full of a bunch of surprises. If teen or body image fiction is your thing I would suggest this novel.