When Stevie Barrett has a heart attack at the tender age of 32, she immediately knows that nothing will be the same. She has always drowned her insecurities and unhappiness in food, but after a weight loss surgery and losing 170 pounds, thatís no longer an option. Stevie is haunted by the memories of her schizophrenic mother and Sunshine, the younger sister whom Stevie couldnít save. After her mother killed herself and Sunshine, Stevie was sent to live with her Aunt Janet and Uncle Herbert. Growing up, Herbert made Stevie feel unwelcome and terrorized his entire family. As a result, Stevieís cousin Polly is still struggling with anorexia Ė another eating disorder that stems from the same place.
Stevieís caustic best friend, Eileen, who is the same size as pre-surgery Stevie, constantly admonishes her for ďtaking the easy way outĒ and accuses her of vanity rather than recognizing it as a serious health issue. At Stevieís job as a legal assistant, she is assigned to a case that goes against everything she believes in. As if all that isnít difficult enough, Herbert is demanding that his children (and Stevie) throw him an anniversary party, one his wife clearly doesnít want. As Stevie tries to muddle through the difficulties in her life, she begins to realize who she really is and which people lift her up as well as which try to tear her down.
Such a Pretty Face deals with many different issues. Stevie is still insecure after her surgery; though she may have been transformed on the outside, nothing has changed on the inside. As a morbidly obese woman, Stevie perfected the art of being as quiet as possible. She never stood up for herself because she didnít want people to notice her. When they did, all they saw was her weight. As the novel progresses, Stevie begins to find herself, and she realizes that there is more to her than her weight. She sees that she needs to stand up for herself. Stevie is an incredibly endearing and sympathetic character, and itís gratifying to watch her find her voice and use it.
The novel flashes back and forth from Stevieís present to past. The reader sees the person she has become, as well as the story of how she became who she is. While the situation with Helen, Stevieís mother, is completely heartbreaking, itís not quite as compelling as Stevieís present-day journey. Readers may become impatient with the constant flashbacks, eager to return to the Stevie they have come to know and love.
The secondary characters in Such a Pretty Face also play an important role. From Stevieís cousin Lance to her neighbor Jake, these personalities are unique and interesting. The supporting cast really makes Such a Pretty Face worth reading, as they are the challenges Stevie has to face. From encouraging Polly to seek treatment for her anorexia to standing up to Herbert and Eileen, Stevieís growth is fostered through the people around her. Itís very well done and emphasizes how important the people in Stevieís life are to her.
Such a Pretty Face is a gratifying read with an amazingly written main character. Readers will wrap themselves in Stevieís life, not wanting to let go. Her joys and sorrows become the readersí as they become emotionally involved in her journey. Though the flashbacks can be tedious at times, overall this is an engaging and well-written novel that fans of womenís fiction should definitely pick up.