Title: Making Pretty
Author: Corey Ann Haydu
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2
Synopsis: Montana and her sister, Arizona, are named after the mountainous states their mother left them for. But Montana is a New York City girl through and through, and as the city heats up, she’s stepping into the most intense summer of her life. Her father is distracted by yet another divorce, and she’s growing apart from her sister. Then she meets wild, bold Karissa, who encourages Montana to live in technicolor and chase new experiences. But the more of her own secrets Karissa reveals, the more Montana has to wonder if Karissa’s someone she can really trust.
In the midst of her uncertainty, Montana finds a beautiful distraction in Bernardo. He’s serious and spontaneous, and he looks at Montana in the way she wants to be seen. For the first time, Montana understands how you can become both lost and found in somebody else. But when that love becomes everything, where does it leave the rest of her imperfect life?
Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by Making Pretty. Having never read a Corey Ann Haydu book and hearing mixed reactions to her previous two novels, I was really hesitant to start this book, to the point where I had the ARC since the event I got it from and just kept putting it off. I feel stupid having done that because I thought this book was fantastic.
I have of love of pretty-ugly people. They are people who behave in horrific ways, sometimes not learning their lessons, and often are difficult to connect with. I had a rough time with Montana and Arizona, because while they don’t fall into this category, they do have moments where they are pretty damn close to the spectrum. This is a novel of complex relationships, be it family, friends, the one you love, and the book constantly is asking the reader what it means to fit in within those relationships. Montana and Arizona have a parent who has hard four failed relationships, and the daughters really don’t have faith in him. It’s hard to given how much of a serial dater/proposer he is, so it was hard for me not to blame them when they were hard on him, even if it wasn’t right at all.
Then there’s the relationship between Montana and Karissa, which I thought was so intriguing given how much Montana feels that Karissa is hers alone. I think what I loved was how realistic Montana’s response is: everyone has had a friendship where they feel that that person belongs only to them and when they stray, they take it personally. When Arizona and Montana find out about Karissa’s relationship with their father, they behave in such a horrific way, and yet again considering how the novel builds, their reactions are unsurprising in the slightest.
What I loved about this novel was how real each character felt. Each one had enough development from Montana’s POV that you knew a surprising amount about them and her relationship with that person. This novel explores relationships in a way that is both thoughtful and complex, while approaching other subjects such as sex and friendship in a very approachable way. I completely devoured this book in a day and a half, but it always kept thinking, wondering. The way in which Haydu presents relationships is both fascinating as it is truthful, and she makes no bones about how complex and challenging they can be. Furthermore, the characters are very genuine and realistic in their reactions, and it made for a compelling read.
Making Pretty is one of those books I now regret not getting to sooner, but am now glad I’ve read. It makes me want to investigate more of her novels, because I feel like the tough issues presented in this story are exactly the kinds of stories I enjoy reading about. Smart, honest, and even hurtful, this book left me with a lot to think about, and I definitely encourage others to check it out if they like tough issue YA.