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My Life in Black and White

Review

My Life in Black and White

Even if you're not like Alexa (and few of us are), you probably know someone who is. Lexi is "the pretty one," both in her group of friends and in her family. Her sister, Ruthie, is the smart and practical one. Her best friend, Taylor, is the fun one. But Lexi is the pretty one, the one who gets stopped on the street by a fashion photographer, the one whose mother is always reminding her to watch her face or her figure.

"The journey Lexi takes is both surprising and entirely fitting, and readers will be cheering for her to forge her own path, to decide for herself who she is and what she's made of."

However, in the space of a single evening --- or rather a single moment on a single evening --- all that changes forever. Horrified when she walks in on her boyfriend and Taylor hooking up at a party, Lexi asks the first boy she runs into (Taylor's brother, Jarrod) to drive her home. But Jarrod's mind is on Lexi rather than on the road, and the drive ends with an accident that will leave Lexi's face permanently disfigured. No one will be calling her "the pretty one" anymore.

But the question of who she is remains and is at the center of MY LIFE IN BLACK AND WHITE. Of course, all teenagers go through a journey of self-discovery and self-definition --- it's one of the oldest storylines in the book. But Lexi's journey is particularly unusual and poignant. Her first reaction is to hide out, to mourn the loss of what could have been (a gorgeous boyfriend, an easy life, maybe even a modeling career). Then she reacts against the girl she once was by hiding herself in Ruthie's plain and unattractive clothing because nothing else fits her anymore: "Here is a picture: sophomore girl, walking through the double doors of Millbridge Senior High School on her first day --- a moment she has imagined a thousand times before…legs tan and strong…senior guys staring…. But that is only a picture. That isn't real…. Real is incomprehensible."

As Lexi struggles to find a place for herself --- a new and strong place that lies in between "pretty" and "ugly," and between black and white --- she also must redefine the relationships that have always surrounded and sustained her. These include the relationship with her mother --- whose complicated relationship with Lexi has a lot to do with her own sense of physical attractiveness and self-worth --- as well as with Ruthie, her boyfriend, and Taylor, who is about to go through her own sort of trial.

Natasha Friend tackles big issues in her novels for teens, but does so in a way that is character-driven and compelling. The journey Lexi takes is both surprising and entirely fitting, and readers will be cheering for her to forge her own path, to decide for herself who she is and what she's made of.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on September 21, 2012

My Life in Black and White
by Natasha Friend

  • Publication Date: June 14, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction, Young Adult 12+
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Juvenile
  • ISBN-10: 067001303X
  • ISBN-13: 9780670013036