Friday, November 1, 2013

Isn't She Lovely by Lauren Layne

The Basics:
Isn't She Lovely by Lauren Layne
Random House Publishing Group - Flirt
New Adult, Romance
Published Date: October 28, 2013

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

In a modern, New Adult take on Pygmalion, Stephanie is a Goth film student paired with Ethan, a preppy business student to work on a screenplay for their summer class. When her sublet apartment falls through, Ethan offers her a deal - fake her way through a few parties and events as his girlfriend, and she can stay in his apartment. The catch? She'll have to undergo a makeover to fit in with his upper-class social set, and they decide to use the experience as the inspiration for their screenplay. As their attraction to each other grows, Ethan begins to wonder if Stephanie really can fit into his world, while Stephanie's concerned Ethan may be attracted to the fake version of herself rather than who she really is.

What Worked for me:

Frankly, I'm a fan of Pygmalion inspired stories. Something about the tension between before and after the makeover, and the discovery of identity beneath image, the development of self-confidence... there's just a lot of material there that I enjoy.

Isn't She Lovely was a delight. I lost a few hours of precious sleep (I'm a new mom!) racing to finish the book, and I didn't regret it. It was my first New Adult book, and I quite liked it. While I enjoy the freshness and teenage drama of Young Adult novels, there's a maturity in that New Adult period that I was happy to embrace. I can also see how this genre will explode in the next few years as all those teenagers devouring Young Adult books move to this genre. Can we start calling Young Adult books Teen books now?

On the characters front, both Stephanie and Ethan face personal issues apart from the tension developing between them. Ethan was particularly convincing as he faced his problems - I won't be more specific to avoid spoiling the book for anyone. Let's just say that I felt like he was very genuine.

My favourite moment is late in the book when Stephanie is caught in a conversation about whether or not being Goth is a phase for her - there's a line about how life is full of phases, one after another. The idea of this really resonated with me. I'm not a fan of romances about couples who reclaim or renew their relationship, but this conversation really piqued my interest in reading one that embraces the idea of phases of life and renewing a relationship as the individuals enter new phases in their own lives, and new phases together as a couple.

What didn't work for me:
There wasn't anything that stands out as being a low point for me. Obviously the Pygmalion/opposites attract-makeover plot has been done before, but I liked Layne's spin on it, and I found her resolution satisfying.

Bottom Line:
I highly recommended this book. It was fun, with great pacing. It made me think about modern prejudices based on clothing and class, which so often fails to account for backgrounds and attitudes. I'm already looking for more New Adult books to read, and I'll add Lauren Layne to my list of authors to watch for in the future!

5 stars
For fans of She's All That, My Fair Lady, Grease and any other Pygmalion-inspired movie, fans of new adult romance, fans of Sarah Dessen.

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