Dead Gorgeous by Malorie Blackman 2002
Corgi Books/Random House Children's
IQ "Why did she want to be like Raye when her sister was so mean? Not to mention shallow. If Raye were a swimming pool, Nova would be able to walk from one side of her to the other without getting her toenails wet." Nova pg. 150 (heehee this made me smile)
Nova's family owns a hotel and that's all her parents seem to care about. Her father is obsessing with raising the hotel's profile and her mother is concerned with keeping the guests happy. Neither of her parents notice that Nova is unhappy or that their oldest, Rainbow is equally unhappy. The twins Jude and Jake are the only ones in the family who are happy. When Liam appears, he changes their family. Liam is handsome and blunt, and a ghost. He sees what's wrong with Nova's family and Nova herself. Nova doesn't want to hear about her problems, she just wants Liam to leave. Problem is, Liam can't figure out how to move on, he seems to be chained to the hotel where he died. They are both going to need to help each other, if they could stop arguing.
I've decided that Malorie Blackman's writing style is not for me. It's straightforward, but I find it to be over dramatic for a majority of the time. With this book there was no real element of suspense and little connection to the characters. I couldn't understand why Liam really wanted to help Nova. I can't even say that it was out of the goodness of his heart because he had an attitude and helping Nova didn't really help him. Furthermore, the story had an extremely preachy way about it. The messages are spelled out and re-iterated. It doesn't try to disguise that there are indeed several messages at play here. In part due to the writing and the age and actions of Nova, I wasn't captivated by the story. I had the slightest bit of curiosity as to how Liam was going to be freed from roaming the hotel, and I wanted everything to turn out OK for Nova, but other than that, I had little investment in the characters. I didn't understand the point of having the story being told in two-four page chapters from the point of view of Nova, her father, Rainbow, Andrew (a boy Rainbow has a crush on), Mr. Jackman (a mysterious boarder), etc. Especially since in the chapters, we hear the thoughts of other characters, so it doesn't make a difference whose point of view it's told from.
I did like that Dead Gorgeous is not a romance. I expected that it would be, but it's not and that makes for happier reading (Nova is only twelve and can be a tad immature so I'm not sure I would have wanted to read about her pining after a ghost). The best part was probably the end, it had the potential to be truly nail-biting but the delivery failed. However I liked the idea of it and for a second or two I was worried about what Liam would decide. The dialogue was entertaining, what with Nova complaining and constantly making fun of her parents or getting upset at Liam. I also liked the issue brought up with Nova. Honestly, I don't tend to think of this particular issue has being something that thirteen year olds go through, but I'm sure they do and I was glad to see the issue addressed. It makes me sad that such young girls go through things like that and I hope this book will give girls pause before they engage in this particular act.
Dead Gorgeous is a dicey story that will most likely entertain younger readers. I would say that children who are in the middle will be able to easily relate to Nova's feelings of being ignored by her parents and are older sister and younger brothers. The writing style is not for me, but it may very well suit others. It's a quick read with an interesting premise, that failed to deliver for me. There are several important messages echoed throughout the book, but I wish that they had been more subtle. The crazy antics of Nova's family will have readers smiling and her struggles will make them sympathetic. I was quite pleased at how race does not play a role in this story but we know that Liam and Nova are Black (Nova from the cover, Liam from the description) along with some other people they meet, a diverse cast makes me very happy.
Disclosure: Received from Book Fairy #3. Thank you :)
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