Saturday, July 11, 2009

Secrets of Truth and Beauty

Megan Frazer, July 2009. Dara's family life seems pretty normal - sure, her mom is strict, but whatever - until she finds a folder of family birth certificates and realizes she has an older sister, Rachel. When she confronts her parents, they admit Rachel ran away before Dara was born and that they have no relationship with her.

Dara was crowned Little Miss Maine when she was a kid, but now she's seventeen and significantly overweight. She plans her junior autobiography project around this theme, but parts of it are taken out of context by her teacher and counselor, so her furious parents pull her out of school. Dara rebels by going off to live with Rachel on her Massachusetts dairy farm. While there, Dara finds out some family secrets (hint: the farm is historically a refuge for gay kids whose parents kick them out) and makes some new friends, including Owen (gay!) and his brother (not gay! likes Dara!).

Summarizing this plot in these few words makes it recognizable as your basic coming-of-age story, and it is - but it's extremely well done. Plot threads like the out-of-order diary pages Dara finds in a closet interweave with tales of Rachel's love life, domestic scenes of the "family" cooking dinner together, and Dara's eventual decision to enter a local beauty pageant. Such peripheral characters as silent, elderly matriarch Belinda and Dara's kindly and undersung father contribute to a novel more complex than it might seem initially. Perhaps the best detail is Dara's commitment to fashion despite her size; she and Owen are always creating spectactular outfits that would delight the members of fatshionista. Highly recommended for all public, middle and high school libraries.

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