Pretty On The Outside by Kate Kingsley
Alice and Tally have always been the queens of St. Cecilia's. Between jet-setting to Rome and Paris on the weekends and sneaking out of their London boarding school for late night trysts, what's not to love? Enter Dylan, the New York City girl who had a summer fling with Alice's best friend (and new crush) Tristan. Now, the girls must defend their status as their charmed lives spiral into broken hearts, jealousies, and the most vicious of revenge plots. (courtesy of Amazon)
My feelings on this book are really mixed. I disliked Pretty On The Outside, but I don't necessarily think it's a bad book for people other than myself. It is basically Gossip Girl set in England. Alice Rochester and Natalya Abbot are the queen bees of St. Cecilia's. Suddenly there's Dylan, the new girl - an American no less. What's worse is that Dylan had a fling with Alice's greatest love, Tristan. Alice quickly makes sure everyone hates Dylan and does her best to place herself in the forefront of Tristan's mind. The only person willing to hang with Dylan is Mimah, one of Alice's best friends now on the outs with the queen. Can Dylan make a place for herself at St. Cecilia's? Or will Alice knock her down permanently to ensure her reign?
Alice is really the leader of the school. Everyone admires her or at least respects her...she knocks down whoever gets in her way. Tally is a slutty ditz who gets by on her exotic Russian beauty. Dylan is vaguely sympathetic as the lost new girl with a horrific mother and new step-father. But she lowers herself to the level of Alice's crew pretty quickly. Tristan only claim to fame is being able to roll the best, cleanest joint around. None of the characters are likable although I occasionally feel sorry for their awful family lives. Throughout the book they smoke cigarettes and pot, drink like fish, have sex or really wish they were, swear like sailors, and battle each other to be the most cruel and vengeful. They seemingly have no morals. Plus, the writing is formulaic and told in the third person omniscient view. Switching from the thoughts of one character to another in a paragraph felt awkward and confusing. The book just is not for me.
Pretty On The Outside really invites a larger question: What should we expect from a book?
If you want a book portraying a different side of British boarding school life than Harry Potter, this is a fascinating tale. If you want to read about rich British teens living the high life and wearing cool clothes, this is a great book (that was what attracted me to the book in the first place). If you want to read a book depicting the all-too-realistic, no-happy-ending cruelties of teenagers, this is definitely the book for you. And moreover, there is nothing that dictates that YA book should follow strict moral standards - that swearing is bad, that drugs, alcohol, and smoking are bad, that sex is bad. Not unless you're reading a book from the 1950s. It's really a matter of personal preference. I prefer books with characters I actually like who grow in positive ways as the book goes on. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's also nothing wrong with liking books that aren't all happy-go-lucky, good-two-shoes.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
What do you look for in a book?