Review: Waking Beauty by Elyse Friedman
I first encountered Waking Beauty in 2009 when I recovering from swine flu. Stuck at home with a runny nose and cough that was seemingly never going to end, I picked up this strange little book that had been sitting on my to-read pile for some months. What I got was an odd tale of an physically unattractive young woman with a good personality who one day wakes and discovers that she now has the body of a supermodel. And so she spends the course of the novel trying to get revenge on all of the people who treated her like dirt (including her adoptive mother,) because of her looks, until eventually she tires of the way the general public will lavish attention on her because she is gorgeous. And the moral to the story? Looks do matter.
The heroine, Allison Penny, is no saint and is difficult to like or feel sorry for. I suspect a low self-esteem is the real cause of most of her problems early on in the novel and it certainly drives her revenge in the chapters that follow. She's more than happy to treat others cruelly if it bolsters her own feelings of self-worth until she's content enough with her own life to stop.
I really don't know whether I loved or hated this novel. In fact, I've just finished re-reading it in order to work out whether I do love or hate it (as my swine flu brain may not be the best judge). And in all honesty, I still don't know if I love or hate Waking Beauty. It is certainly amusing in places--it is fun to Allison get revenge on her cruel and stuck up housemate. On the other hand, the premise is totally unbelievable. The author never really explains how Allison's apearance could alter so radically or why. Or even why, apart from judging someone on their looks did the supporting characters feel the need to be quite so cruel to Allison to begin with. The supporting characters were a little too selfish and a little too black and white, to give the story any real depth. And some of the language (ie the main character waking to hear her flatmate being "vaginally plumbed" is crude rather than amusing) as is the fact that Allison's first quest once she discovers her new body is to lose her virginity and ends up giving a married construction worker a hand job. (Who then ejaculates on her shoe. Charming, Ms Friedman)
I get that the whole thing is supposed to be a black comedy and an anti-chick-lit novel, but I still feel like it was either poorly written or that I missed something ...