Title: Making Pretty
Author: Corey Ann Haydu
Release Date: May 12
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: HarperCollins Children on Edelweiss (A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.)
Check this book out on Goodreads.
Montana and her sister, Arizona, are named after the mountainous states their mother left them for. But Montana is a New York City girl through and through, and as the city heats up, she’s stepping into the most intense summer of her life.
With Arizona wrapped up in her college world and their father distracted by yet another divorce, Montana’s been immersing herself in an intoxicating new friendship with a girl from her acting class. Karissa is bold, imperfectly beautiful, and unafraid of being vulnerable. She’s everything Montana would like to become. But the friendship with Karissa is driving a wedge between Montana and her sister, and the more of her own secrets Karissa reveals, the more Montana has to wonder if Karissa’s someone she can really trust.
In the midst of her uncertainty, Montana finds a heady distraction in Bernardo. He’s serious and spontaneous, and he looks at Montana in the way she wants to be seen. For the first time, Montana understands how you can become both lost and found in somebody else. But when that love becomes everything, where does it leave the rest of her imperfect life? (Source: Goodreads)
Montana feels lost. Her sister and best friend have moved on with their lives at university. Her father is constantly changing wives and changing how they look. She feels ungrounded and scared. She gets swept up in romance over the summer. Two romances. The romance of Karissa, the nymph-like girl from her acting class, and the romance of Bernardo, the charming stranger she’s constantly making eyes with in the park. She struggles through the summer trying to understand love and her family, trying to find her place – trying to belong.
Making Pretty took me by surprise. I don’t know what I was expecting from this book but it is not at all what I got. I was so delighted and absorbed by this book. I felt like this book was about me. And maybe that’s what makes this book so nearly perfect – everyone feels lost and out of place at some point in their life. Montana’s story feels like the story of all of us, and it was so comforting and exhilarating to read about it and feel the passion and chaos of her life. I have been a big fan of Haydu ever since I read OCD Love Story and was thrilled to read another fantastic book from her. This book has an excellent sense of motion and stillness, fantastic characters, a sense of realism unlike any other, and heart wrenchingly good writing.
I struggled a lot when reading this to explain to family and dates and friends what this book was about. This isn’t a hugely plot focused book, it’s a character driven book about Montana’s development, it’s about the search for belonging and the self and a sense of freedom and being you but also being something more than that – being a piece of something bigger, like a family. That’s hard to explain, it’s hard to understand if you’re on the receiving end of that description. Haydu perfectly captures this sense of adventure, belonging, alienation, loss, longing, freedom, being stuck, being in love, and not, and wanting something more but not knowing what or how.
This book, the plot and the characters and the feelings, leapt off the page and filled me up because they were so real. Haydu has such a knack for creating realistic drama and feeling in her books. I said frequently while reading Making Pretty, “this book is me” because everything about it felt so perfectly true to me. Montana’s worries are so real, and her attempts to be herself are so reckless and real and true. This kind of spirals out of control at some point in this book and when it happened I thought at first “oh no, Haydu what have you done?” The trouble is…this was exactly what needed to happen. Exactly what would happen. This action and Montana spiraled out of control and it was so beautiful and crushing and perfect.
The characters in this book feel real and read true. Montana and her sister, Arizona, have the sort of relationship many siblings who are close in age have – they’re inseparable until they’re not and then they’re both reeling from this sense of loss. This aspect reminded me a lot of Fangirl and the way that book was so much what I needed at a time in my own life where I kind of “lost” my brother to growing up and growing apart. Karissa is so enchanting and charming and horrifying all at once because she’s perfect it’s unnerving. Bernardo was charming and lovely. There’s a wonderful line about Montana being the Beatles that had me swooning. Montana’s parental drama is realistic. Her sense of longing for something that was never her’s in the stepmothers, and her own mother, is so relatable it stings.
I don’t think I have enough words of praise to give to this book. It was enchanting and powerful. I was somewhat disappointed with the ending at first – because it doesn’t wrap everything up perfectly – but it fits. Things don’t need to be perfectly wrapped and pretty. That’s not realistic.