Teen Books That Have Something to Say
by Kristen D. Randle
HarperTempest/Harper Collins,(July 2003)
... Even if everybody in the world had exactly the same face, there would be no two people exactly alike. Some would achieve beauty, some would be ugly; some faces would end up seeming gentle, some cruel. All depending on the person looking out through the face.
... The idea came all at once: we will each choose a person who is obviously untapped, and we will try to open him up, set him free, give him life. I do not anticipate that it will be that hard—kindness, a little attention, support, friendship.
--Slumming, Kristen D. Randle, p. 4-5.
In their senior year, three best friends, Nikki, Sam, and Alicia, decide to take on another student at school who needs their help, and befriend them, help make their life better. They make a pact to complete this project in three weeks, and then take the person they have chosen to the prom. There is an element of competition to this project; at the end of the three weeks, they will decide together who accomplished the biggest change. The three friends started out thinking that they will be the ones to make all the changes, the ones who will be giving—but each of them reacts to the person they've chosen, and over time they each grow and change.
Each friend chooses someone who they were secretly drawn to, but who they would never have gotten to know if it weren't for the pact. Nikki chooses Brian, the class geek, who she knows she can make more attractive and popular. Sam chooses Tia, a girl with an attitude, black lipstick, and combat boots—someone who he feels is unhappy. And Alicia chooses Morgan, a guy who has a bad boy reputation, but who she is sure is hurting inside, like her. As each friend gets closer to the person they chose, they pull farther and farther away from each other. But a crisis in the end draws the three changed friends together again.
The book is written in short sections from each friend's perspective, and the voices are unique and believable. The characters feel full and complete, and you come to care deeply about them, and about how the whole project will work out. This is a moving, gripping, emotional book—one that compels you to keep reading.
The characters go through deep changes, and each of them move through bleakness into greater happiness. All loose ends are tied up, and the ending is satisfying. This is an insightful, painful, at times gritty, but ultimately uplifting book. Read and enjoy!
-Added February 16, 2004
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