Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Outside Beauty-- Cynthia Kadohata

In a world that values beauty more than almost anything else, what's a girl to do when beauty escapes her? Shelby and her three sisters have one thing in common: their gorgeous sexpot man-eating mother. All four daughters have different fathers. They are racially diverse, and with the exception of Shelby, all quite beautiful. They have lived a magical life traveling from place to place with their mother, following the path of jewelry, money, and love. Shelby's mother is fiercely independent, yet strangely entangled with a multitude of men, and all four girls unendingly adore her.

But one day tragedy strikes. All four girls are sent to live with their respective fathers. Shelby finds herself living with her father Jiro, an immigrant from Japan who now lives in Arkansas and produces top quality chewing gum for a living. Her sisters have varying levels of stability in their new homes, but Shelby is desperate to return to them. After living a life surrounded by intensely close female relationships, this exile is slowly killing the spirits of all four sisters. They take desperate measures to reunite, and find that family is often bigger than the little box one puts it in.

While it's easy to summarize this story in a bit of a cliche and simple way, there are more complex elements to it that will keep the reader enticed. While it didn't knock my socks off, it was a fairly compelling read and I enjoyed the diverse range of characters Kadohata provided. I would recommend this book rather widely to teen girls, especially for those who are looking for books about relationships that don't involve explicit sex, Asian characters, or stories about family.

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