Revenge of the Not-So-Pretty Girl
Faye is on the lookout for the woman she and her friends plan to rob. Their ring-leader, bossy Caroline, planned the heist after she learned there was a retired movie actress living in this Brooklyn apartment. A famous actress should have tons of cash, and the other girls are very excited. Faye's feeling reluctant. It's a bit different when they've stolen from mean, privileged teens, who flaunt their good looks and possessions in Faye's face. Gillian, the third person of their team, spots the actress on her way, but says, "...I gotta tell you, though, she doesn't look like a movie star to me."
"Every detail, physical and emotional, is true-to-life. Faye is not only a totally real and sympathetic person, she is also both witty and refreshingly complex, making REVENGE OF A NOT-SO-PRETTY GIRL a story that lingers long after the tale is finished."
When Faye spots their intended victim trudging up the stairs to the vestibule, she sees what Gillian means. This is a tiny, ancient lady with a hump on her back and white cotton-candy hair. She isn't dressed well and doesn't look like she belongs in this swanky apartment building, which happens to be not far from Faye's home but is an entire world apart in terms of classiness. This woman looks like she would fit in the shabby apartment Faye shares with her mother. From the old lady's appearance, she could even be homeless. Now Caroline insists on carrying the woman's bag of groceries into her apartment. When Faye and Gillian enter, their victim is propped against the wall with the groceries strewn over the floor. She insists she only has the few dollars that were in her purse, but the girls search her apartment. Caroline, frustrated, goes berserk, throwing crockery against the floor. After the old lady hands over bills hidden in a cookbook, Faye idly picks up a framed photograph. The woman lunges at Faye, who pulls back, accidentally knocking her down. The elderly lady hits her head on the edge of the table and slides to the floor.
As Faye walks to her home, she feels as if she is in a nightmare. The scene in which the little old lady strikes her head and crumples lifelessly to the floor replays in her mind repeatedly. Even at home, as she rushes to accomplish chores her mother expects done, she can feel her heart pound. As usual, Mama is anything but a comfort and Faye could never confide in her. Mama is forever the opposite of affectionate, now yanking Faye along to church where Faye wonders if she will flare into flames, murderer that she is.
Faye's absent father pays for her to attend a Catholic high school. In her religious studies class the next day, her nemesis, Sister Margaret Theresa Patricia Bernadette (who insists on being addressed with every one of her names) writes the word "KARMA" on the blackboard in foot-high letters. Keisha, Faye's best friend, jokes around, mouthing "karma" and widening her eyes as if she is a star in a horror flick. However, the concept of karma suddenly has a terrible personal meaning for Faye --- and as the nun discusses how actions can lead to rude awakenings, Faye's world closes in on her. By the time she's out of school, she feels as if she is actually going insane. She is impelled to the old lady's apartment, where she stands with her hand on the door knob. If the knob turns, she'll know the old lady died and that Faye is a true murderer, but Faye could never predict the twists and turns her life will soon take.
I was hooked from page one of this layered, nuanced page-turner, which weaves themes of conscience, family connections, friendship and more into a stunning coming of age story. Author Carolita Blythe never missteps as we enter Faye's life. Every detail, physical and emotional, is true-to-life. Faye is not only a totally real and sympathetic person, she is also both witty and refreshingly complex, making REVENGE OF A NOT-SO-PRETTY GIRL a story that lingers long after the tale is finished.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on April 16, 2013