Fix: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Fix by Leslie MargolisFix (2006) by Leslie Margolis is one of those books every girl should read. Furthermore, it should be required reading for anyone who even thinks about visiting a plastic surgeon.

Fix follows the Beekman sisters, Cameron and Allie who are the alternate protagonists of the novel. When the book begins, Cameron has already had a nose job and is enjoying a better life thanks to the surgery and a school transfer. No more mean nicknames, no more bullies, no more feeling like an outcast.

Getting ready to go to college, Cameron begins to wonder if she “needs” more cosmetic surgery in order to fit in on campus at UC “Santa Barbie.” Meanwhile, Allie is getting ready for her own nose job and has to decide if being “pretty” is worth such drastic measures. No matter where you stand on the subject, the book will probably feature something you can agree with.

Margolis really looks at the plastic surgery issue from all sides. The book is interesting but also informative. By the end of the novel, it’s clear that there is no right answer about getting (or not getting) cosmetic surgery. But Margolis intelligently examines all sides of the issue highlighting the risks and the motivations that can lead a girl to the operating table.

The writing style is clear. Margolis presents a lot of information about the risks of surgery without getting excessively gory or boring. Ally and Cameron look at the surgery issue very differently and Margolis does a good job of showing that. This fact is what elevates the book from a commentary on cosmetic surgery to a character study of how a girl can define and shape her own sense of beauty.

The Beekman sisters are great protagonists for this novel. Even if they sometimes come off a bit flat. At times the characters seem more like archetypes than real people but that might be inherent to the nature of the book–since it is so clearly trying to start a conversation about this important issue. Secondary characters, in particular, often seem to lack dimension–appearing merely to make some important point: At times it seems like the characters are preaching their respective messages/opinions rather than taking part in a plot.

Nonetheless, Fix is a quick, enjoyable and above all interesting read.

Possible Pairings: Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley, Skinny by Donna Crooner, The Fold by An Na, My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters by Sydney Salter

Stargirl: A Review

Stargirl by Jerry SpinelliOkay, I’m going to say it: Stargirl (2000) by Jerry Spinelli is a young adult classic (maybe even a children’s classic but that’s really a cataloguing issue that I am ill-equipped to discuss). (Find it on Bookshop.)

This designation raises the question: What makes a book (any book) a classic? For me it means a book that is timeless; something you can read years and years after it was written without the book losing its vibrancy. A classic also needs to have memorable writing and characters. It needs to speak to the reader. It needs to be a book that you enjoy more every time you read it or talk about it. Classics are the books you want to immerse yourself in: the books you wish you could live in with the characters that you wish were your friends.

I’ll say it again: Stargirl is a classic.

The story starts with Leo Borlock, who moved to Mica, Arizona at the age of twelve. Around the time of his move, Leo decided to start collecting porcupine neckties–no easy task, especially in Mica. For two years, Leo’s collection stood at one tie. Until his fourteenth birthday when an unknown someone presented Leo with his second tie, someone who was watching from the sidelines.

Mica’s unusual events don’t stop there. The story continues when Leo is a junior in high school. On the first day the name on everyone’s lips is Stargirl. Formerly home-schooled, Stargirl is a sophomore like no one Leo (or any of the other Mica students) has ever met before:

“She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to corkboard like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.”

After finishing this book and recently reading Love, Stargirl (Spinelli’s newly released sequel), I have my own explanation: Stargirl is magical. She represents the kind of magic more people need in their lives: to appreciate the little things, to dare to be different, to be kind to strangers. The kind of magic where you still believe things can be wondrous.

In the story, Leo soon realizes that Stargirl might be someone he could love.

Unfortunately, high school students don’t always believe in (or appreciate) magic like Stargirl’s. As the school moves from fascination to adoration and, finally, to disdain Leo finds himself in an impossible position: forced to choose between the girl he loves and his entire lifestyle.

Technically speaking I love everything about this book: the characters, the story, the cover art. This one has the full package. Spinelli’s writing throughout the story is perfect. He captures Leo’s fascination with Stargirl as well as his equivocation as he is forced to choose between Stargirl and “the crowd.”

Stargirl is not a long book. The writing is cogent, sentences brief. Nonetheless, the text is rich. This book never gets old or boring. Spinelli creates a compelling, utterly new narrative here (with a charmingly memorable heroine).

Possible Pairings: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, The Blue Girl by Charles De Lint, Paper Towns by John Green, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Holes by Louis Sachar