Title: The Fashion Disaster That Changed My Life
Author: Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Dutton Children’s Books
Check this book out on Goodreads.
Alli longs to be popular, but fate just keeps conspiring to make her totally uncool. Who else would be humiliated by a piece of her mom’s underwear stuck to her butt by static cling? Despite the fact that Alli is certain the universe is plotting against her, she does eventually break into the inner circle of seventh-grade cool. But nothing is as she expected, and there’s ugliness lurking behind even the prettiest face. Alli bares it all to her journal as she figures out where she fits in and, most important of all, what it means to be a real friend. (Source: Goodreads)
All Alli wants is to be popular, and for people to forget about the embarrassing things that have happened to her. She doesn’t want people to remember that she got fat after she got sick last year, and she doesn’t want people to keep picking on her about the pair of underwear she had stuck to her at school. She wants people to notice her and to like her, especially popular girl Rachel.
Alli’s longing to be popular is one I think most middle school students can understand. Maybe they aren’t so interested in being popular, but they want to be noticed. Maybe, like Alli, they want their crush to notice them. Or they want a group of people they admire to notice them. This desire to be noticed and liked is a pretty common one in all people, but is very important for middle schoolers who are starting to figure out who they are. I found that Lauren Myracle’s take on this was really accurate because she really dealt with the fact that sometimes we want everyone to like us, even when we know they aren’t worth the effort. Rachel, the cool girl, is definitely not worth Alli’s time, and sometimes she realizes this, but most times she forgets. The fight that Alli has with herself, almost constantly, about which friends to hang onto and which friends are hanging on too tight, is fairly realistic.
I personally find the quest for popularity storyline a little overdone, but it is a fairly classic middle school/high school plot and one that is very relevant to most preteen and teen lives. The idea of being yourself is really key to teenhood, so it’s no surprise the storyline comes up so often. I think there’s something a little different in this story because the people Alli initially leaves behind aren’t so great either. Kathy, her only friend at the beginning of the book, is really not a great friend. She’s the kind of person who puts you down enough to make herself feel good but not enough to push you away. I thought this character was used well to present the fact that Alli doesn’t really have anyone to turn to as she struggles to figure things out because Kathy was really a bad friend too.
Myracle created realistic characters who had a great deal of depth to them. Even in such a short book Myracle added in enough detail to most of the minor characters that you got a sense of the struggles they were facing too, so that no one was just bad or good. Jeremy, a boy who teases Alli, has a rough home life which Alli and her parents discuss so that Alli won’t think so badly of him. Rachel’s parents seemed very absent to me, which created a need to be attended to by her peers.
Myracle is known to deal with some of the more taboo subjects in her books. I’ve previously read Shine, which is for an older audience than this book, and it dealt with homosexuality, poverty, and drugs. This book didn’t shy away from topics like divorce and sex, which I think is a really good thing. They aren’t dealt with in a direct manner but they are used casually to the side or in the background to normalize them, which was especially true of the topic of porn in this book. I think this normalization is really important to create a safe environment for preteens and teens to learn about sex, pornography, and relationships. And Myracle’s choice not to shy away from these topics is something that makes her such an awesome writer.
This book is in a journal format, think Princess Diaries, which is a very comfortable style to read and makes it a lot easier to get to know Alli in such a short period of time. The directness of a journal creates a quick connection because everything is straight from Alli and comes from her perspective. It’s a useful tool in middle school books which was used really well in this book.
I really enjoyed this book, even if it was a little below my reading level. I think this is a really good read for middle school students that has a really important message about being yourself and standing up for yourself, especially in a verbal, non-physical sense. I highly recommend this book!
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