Friday, February 12, 2010

A Little Change of Face

A Little Change of Face
By Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Red Dress Inc., 2005. 328 pages. Romance
Scarlett Jane Stein hates her name but loves her appearance. She easily attracts men. By her own admittance Scarlett chose the profession of librarian in order to rebel against stereotype. In fact, when interesting men first see Scarlett behind a library desk they exclaim with surprise that she should choose to "hide" herself there. Scarlett is involved in an unhealthy relationship with her default best friend Pam. Pam continually taunts Scarlett about her beauty and issues a dare. The dare is that Scarlett won't be able to captivate men and get dates just by personality alone. After a bout with the chicken pox and a some time to re-evaluate her life Scarlett accepts and proceeds to complete a make-under. She changes her sexy name and wardrobe, wears glasses instead of contacts, cuts her wavy long hair, abandons all grooming and moves to a new workplace to try it all out. Surprise! It turns out Scarlett finds that most men do treat her differently. The exception is Steve Holt, a winder painter, who likes Scarlett without all the flash. But Scarlett finds out Steve has his own secrets.
I picked up this example of chick lit intrigued by the spin on the classic makeover story. "From swan to ugly ducking..."are the teaser words on the pink front cover. The author writes in first person narrative and the novel suffers spending so much time in Scarlett's head. There is an entire chapter devoted to Scarlett's love of her physical anatomy. Her tone of voice is whiny and irritating. The only possibly interesting point of this novel is the attempted insight into the psychology of female friendships - from Scarlett's inability to break things off with Pam due to fear of loneliness to Scarlett's unwillingness to befriend someone better looking than her at work. However, the author disappoints in her attempt at exploring the nature of physical beauty and its effects in female friendships. This novel attempts to uncover the shallowness of men, but the effort backfires. The women swear extensively and crudely, drink excessively, have risky one-night stands, and back stab each other. If the men in the novel behaved the way the women do they would be considered the worst kind of pigs.

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