Monday, April 23, 2012

Pretty Ugly: Bluford Series #18 by Karen Langhorne Folan

“F   The letter was scrawled so big and red, Jamee wondered if Mrs. Guessner had any ink left in her pen after she had made it.”

PrettyUgly is the first book in the Year II Bluford Series. The plot takes place at Bluford High in Los Angeles. In this contemporary narrative, Jamee Wills, a freshman, is determined escape the shadow of her older sister, Darcy. She believes that she will make a name for herself as a talented cheerleader, a part from Darcy’s academic distinction. As the plot unfolds, Jamee finds herself struggling for more than her identity.

Although the characters lack depth, Folan does a good job scripting characters of which readers can easily make connections. Jamee, main character, is in search of her identity as she deals with the issues in her life. In the story, she not only resents being in the shadow of Darcy, but feels out of place with relatives (Aunt Charlotte), longs to talk to her recently deceased grandmother, has anxiety about the new baby that is soon to join the family, and is confused about her father’s return to the family, after he abandoned them years earlier. And, that’s just her family problems. At Bluford High she meets Angel, a shy and awkward freshman, who is bullied relentlessly by Vanessa (and her posse), a mean and manipulative junior. Jamee’s best friend, Amberlynn, loyal and attentive, stands by her as she defends Angel from Vanessa.  Desmond, Jamee’s boyfriend, also support’s Jamee, but has ulterior intentions. There is also Mrs. Guessner, Jamee’s algebra teacher. She has good intentions, but unknowingly, she constantly reminds Jamee that she is not as “smart” as Darcy. 

The plot is straight-forward and touches upon several relevant topics. To start, Jamee fails an algebra test. Mrs. Guessner, requires her to get her parents’ signature on the test, come for after-school help, and retake the test at the end of the week. Rather than do so, Jamee attends cheerleading tryouts.At tryouts, Jamee notices Angel and Vanessa. When Angel awkwardly performs a routine, Vanessa and her friends bully her, much to Jamee’s disgust. The next day Vanessa bullys Angel at lunch and when Jamee defends her, Vanessa comments on her “reputation” with boys. Her comment leads Jamee to wonder whether Dez is dating her because he thinks she is willing to go “all the way.”

That afternoon in the locker room, Vanessa nd her friends play monkey-in-the-middle with Angel’s T-Shirt. After Jamee helps Angel get her shirt back, Tasha takes a picture with her mobile phone of Jamee comforting Angel with a hug. The picture is sent to students at Buford High with a caption that reads “Look who’s in love.”

Meanwhile, alerted by Mrs. Guessner, Jamee’s parents confront Jamee over her failure to get help in algebra. She and her mother have a violent argument, which leaves everyone feeling uneasy. Later that evening, Jamee discovers that the picture taken by Tasha has been circulating around Bluford, and she correctly concludes who is behind it. Jamee realizes that things will only get worse until Vanessa is stopped.

Folan deals with several themes in Pretty Ugly. Those that stand out are: standing up for the right thing, standing up for oneself, it is okay to be different, and teamwork.

This book is easy to read, entertaining, and economically priced. Reluctant readers, Grades 7 and up would enjoy reading through this acclaimed series.

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