Review by Imogen Crooks, Secondary school student
The prettiest
Young, Brigit. (2020). Roaring Brook Press.
A novel about about standing up for yourself and those around you.

The Prettiest” by Brigit Young is a story of empowerment and friendship through different social circles. This book was definitely a page turner, it was very easy to read and had a straightforward and understandable story that would perfectly suit young readers. It had noble and simple messages of “Everyone is beautiful” and “It’s what’s on the inside that matters” which would satisfy an age range of up to twelve years old. For anyone older however, this book would probably fall short. Despite its message of internal beauty, “The Prettiest” barely scratches the surface of its potential and the points of view it could have explored. 

Two of the three main characters were the top two prettiest girls in the school, while the third wasn’t even on the list (but was so self-assured that this didn’t bother her much). I would have loved this book to delve into how the girls who weren’t on the list were feeling, but instead only got to see how the people at the top of the list felt. It was clear in the story that it was difficult to be considered “the prettiest”, with constant harassment and rude comments being targeted at them, but the book really seems to bypass how characters other than the protagonists were feeling to be deemed “not pretty” and how this would affect a person’s mental health. This makes it difficult for me to relate with the characters and causes the book not to address many of the issues I was hoping to see. 

The book does however have a pleasing amount of diversity in its characters, from race and religion to wealth and family circumstance. This makes the book relatable to many people from different walks of life. The protagonists’ characters are also developed well throughout the book. They are initially stereotyped into roles, but we see them come together and realise that they are not so different from one another, a clever way of showing the reader the support that girls had for one another.  

The Prettiest” is a light and easy read. It is inclusive and memorable in all the expected ways, but really doesn’t challenge a reader’s perspective on the issue of body dysmorphia among girls or encourage us to think in a different way. There are some lovely moments of female empowerment sprinkled throughout the book, but overall, nothing you haven’t seen before. Because this general story of girl power has been used so much before, it has left this book feeling hollow and fake. I often felt while reading that the book was being safe and expected, rather than telling a reader what we need to hear. I would have loved to see the book show some ideas with a bit more weight to them, not only would it have been more memorable but would have also felt genuine and sincere. Overall, “The Prettiest” by Brigit Young is good for a quick casual read, but if you are looking for a book to challenge your views and support you, I advise looking somewhere else.

Disclaimer: Please note these reviews are not intended as endorsements or recommendations from the Mental Health Foundation. This feature introduces resources that may be useful for individuals with an interest in bullying prevention, mental health and wellbeing topics.

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