This week’s book review comes again from PCTELA member Amy Walter, an 8th grade reading specialist at Grove City Middle School, in Grove City, PA. Last week she reviewed North of Beautiful for us, and this week she follows that up with a comparable novel.
My librarian friend Jamie suggested that I read the book My Life in Black in White by Natasha Friend. Jamie and I are on the selection committee for a county wide book competition that takes place every fall in Mercer County. A few years ago I suggested North of Beautiful for this competition, and Jamie loved the book so much she not only passed it onto her daughter, but her daughter’s friend as well. Recently Jamie told me I should read My Life in Black and White because it reminded her of North of Beautiful, with a somewhat similar protagonist, yet a contrasting plot, yet nearly identical themes.
In North of Beautiful we have a gorgeous blonde protagonist with a significant facial “flaw” which serves as a metaphorical antagonist as she deals with the internal conflict of self-acceptance. In My Life in Black and White we have a similar gorgeous blonde who loses her beauty in a life-altering catastrophic event that renders her “unbeautiful.”
Lexi was more than just pretty. Ever since she could remember she was told how beautiful she was. On every outing as a child strangers would come up to her in awe, and remark on her butter-colored hair, perfect skin, and long fluttery eyelashes. Living her charmed life as the envy of many, Lexi had it all. That was until the night her face went through a windshield.
The novel examines the after effects of losing one’s own beauty, and coming to terms with the changes that quickly follow. The bones of Lexi’s face shattered in the accident, so readers see how she now must live her life rebuilding what was always held in such high regard. Lexi also has to come to terms with the night she had the accident, and if it was not for the betrayal of her best friend she never would have been in the car that caused the accident in the first place. The plot is a game of every small decision calculates a very different outcome.
I am such a sucker for good covers and I feel as though this was a great one. However, if this book had not been recommended to me I am not sure I would have read it. The back blurb does not give this book justice. On the surface this book does not seem like it would be a compelling read. It seems as though it’s a book about a pretty girl who has to deal with not being so pretty anymore. Boo-hoo to you, poor girl having to be average, right? But that is not at all what I took away from this book.
Like North of Beautiful, My Life in Black and White uncovers the gritty human truth of how important outward appearance is in society today. I would recommend reading this book alongside, or shortly before or after North of Beautiful. I would recommend this book to a strong reader for the literary quality, or a reluctant reader for the compelling story that gives definition to the term “page turner.”