Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review of PRETTY AMY by Lisa Burstein Plus Author Interview

PRETTY AMY by Lisa Burstein
Synopsis via Goodreads
Amy is fine living in the shadows of beautiful Lila and uber-cool Cassie, because at least she’s somewhat beautiful and uber-cool by association. But when their dates stand them up for prom, and the girls take matters into their own hands—earning them a night in jail outfitted in satin, stilettos, and Spanx—Amy discovers even a prom spent in handcuffs might be better than the humiliating “rehabilitation techniques” now filling up her summer. Worse, with Lila and Cassie parentally banned, Amy feels like she has nothing—like she is nothing.

Navigating unlikely alliances with her new coworker, two very different boys, and possibly even her parents, Amy struggles to decide if it’s worth being a best friend when it makes you a public enemy. Bringing readers along on an often hilarious and heartwarming journey, Amy finds that maybe getting a life only happens once you think your life is over.

MY REVIEW: 4 Stars  
This book took me right back to high school and the uncertainty of it all.
My initial impression of Amy is that she needs a backbone and a brain.  She's the one in the group that doesn't speak up for herself and just goes along with everything, despite what common sense tells her.  I was immediately frustrated with her character and shaking my head with each page turn, but the story is so well-written I became invested in her journey to (hopefully) self discoveryI had to see if she would grow from her experiences, find her voice and realize that she doesn't need the approval of others to validate her existence.  She so afraid of being obscure and overlooked - it's almost paralyzing.  There were certain aspects of her mentality that I remember sharing in high school.  Her inner voice is very real and competently translates the rawness of her pain.  You can easily feel her frustration, angst and desperation.  Amy's inner voice is candid and entertaining - among my favorites is this summation:
'In  high school you are not given a choice as to who you become, you are signed up long before that based on looks, smarts, and talent, and then corralled into your group.  The problem was, I didn't like my group.  Girls who were not popular but not dorks, either, who were not pretty but not totally disgusting.  Girls who floated somewhere in between, somewhere boring; who didn't get asked on dates, who never had to stay out past curfew, who never had to lie to their parents.'

Raw, real and honest are definitely the words that come to mind when I think of Amy's pain and sorrow.  She doesn't necessarily suffer any more than other teenagers who have parents who just don't 'get' who their children are and what they need from them.  It's that Amy is us - me and you - she embodies every teenager in one way or another.  Am I pretty?  Am I smart?  Am I worth attention?  Will anyone ever truly know me, including myself?  Who am I?

What made me care about Amy was her potential for greatness.  If she didn't have anything to look forward to in life, if she didn't have anything to offer, I wouldn't have cared what happened to her (I realize how callous that sounds).  But, she is one of those teens that, if given some guidance, reassurance, affection and self-esteem, could really go places in life.  I didn't want Amy to end up as wasted potential. 

After her arrest she needs to do some growing up.  Her parents make her find a job to pay for attorney fees, she's cut off from her supposed 'friends', and she's forced to decide if she's willing to throw her friends under the bus to save her own neck.   And let's not forget the all-important lessons of how to identify the boys who are only interested in controlling, using and discarding you from the ones who uplift and empower you.

Be warned there is a high use of profanity, instances of drug use and adult situations, so this book should be read by older teens and adults.

***You can enter to win a copy of PRETTY AMY on Goodreads here 
Buy links
Barnes and Noble

~~~~~~~INTERVIEW with Lisa Burstein~~~~~~~
*I always wonder how authors decide what to write about, where did the inspiration for Pretty Amy come from?
Most of my ideas start as things I have actually experienced.  For example in PRETTY AMY, I was arrested during my senior year of high school, not for the same reason Amy was, but that was where the kernel came from.  Usually, I will take an idea and think about how crazy I make it.  I like my books to seem like hyper-reality, because while reality is interesting, I think pushing limits is ever MORE interesting.

*Who are your favorite authors and what are some of your favorite books?
I love Courtney Summers, Sara Zarr, John Green and Deb Caletti, any author who is willing to be raw and real.  My favorite book of all time is A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

*What's next for you?  Any new projects in the works?
A companion novel to PRETTY AMY, titled DEAR CASSIE about the aftermath of the girls' arrest and its effect told through diary entries of Amy's best friend Cassie. 

*What were you like as a teenager?  Who were you?
I was a lot like Amy.  Just like her I had such a desire to belong, to fit in, to have people who understood me.  I wanted that so badly and I guess I never felt like adults understood that.  It was most of the reason I wrote PRETTY AMY.  If I'd had it when I was in high school I feel like I would have been able to understand my feelings better.  I wouldn't have felt so alone.  That feeling was something I never admitted to anyone, not even my friends and I wanted to let teens know it's okay to feel lonely even surrounded by friends and family.

*Do you have any special charities or causes that are near and dear to your heart?
I have a dog and two cats, so anything with animals.  We donated an old car to the Humane Society in our town.   

*Any celebrity crushes?
Leonardo Dicaprio when he was in Romeo and Juliet and Bradley Cooper.
*Shows on t.v. you don't miss?
Seinfeld, 30 Rock.  When Lost was on I was addicted.
*You're a tea seller by day, what are your favorites?
My favorite teas are Earl Grey and Jasmine Green.

*I read that you missed your senior prom.  Is there a story behind that?
I didn't go to my senior prom.  No one asked me.  I had a boyfriend at the time but he was a junior and I guess I didn't want to ask him.  There was a boy in my grade I was friends with, he was also friends with two of my good friends too and basically he was like I will take one of you to the prom.  It went on for two weeks of his trying to decide which one of us to take.  It was weird and stressful, like an episode of the bachelor before that show existed.  Guess who he picked?  The pretty one.  Some friend!

*How are you similar to Amy?  How are you different?
I would say we are both cynical and snarky.  I was also a lot like her in high school scared, unsure, lost.  Wondering if I would ever figure out who I was.  Wondering if I would ever find people who liked me for me.  Wondering if I would ever like me for me.  We are different in that I would never say some of the things she says out loud.
*Any advice/words of wisdom for teenage girls out there trying to survive high school, parents and boys?
Try to remember that even though high school can sometimes feel like a roller coaster; as Amy says, "Four years of hardship, toil, boredom and memorization; of each day feeling the happiest you think you could possibly feel and then sadder than you ever imagined," you will start to even out on the other side. 

So true, Lisa.  I love your description of the high-highs and low-lows of emotions on a daily basis.  It's a wonder any of us get out alive.

You can find Lisa ......                

No comments:

Post a Comment