When Dara Cohen was little, she was a bright, shiny star. She was the cutest seven-year-old who ever sang Ella Fitzgerald, and it was no wonder she was crowned Little Miss Maine. That was then. Now Dara's seventeen and she's not so little anymore. So not little, that when her classmates find out about her illustrious resume, their jaws drop. That's just one of her many problems. Another is that her control-freak mom won't get off her case about anything. Yet the one that hurts the most is the family secret: Dara has an older sister her parents tried to erase from their lives. When a disastrously misinterpreted English project lands her in the counselor's office--and her parents pull her out of school to save face--Dara realizes she has a decision to make. She can keep following the rules and being misunderstood, or she can finally reach out to the sister she's never met--a sister who lives on a collective goat farm in Massachusetts. Dara chooses B. What follows is a summer of revelations, some heartbreaking, some joyous; of friendship, romance, a local beauty pageant; and choices. And as autumn approaches, Dara finds she may have to let go of everything she's taken for granted in order to figure out who she really is, and what family really means.
This novel was touching. It dealt with hard issues like body image and obesity. Since obesity and being overweight are growing issues today, it was interesting to see how this really made Dara feel and affected her life. Lots of times society judges people with weight issues without considering the person's feelings so to see the other side of the story was refreshing.
It challenged the widely accepted definition of beauty - skinny, tall, pretty. Dara, who wasn't super skinny, was beautiful on the inside and she learned to recognize and be proud of that. I liked that fact that this novel didn't imply that Dara should lose weight in order to be beautiful. It wasn't on the pro-anorexic-level-skinny side at all. It helped the reader see that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, you just have to look past stereotypes and the way other people see things to find it. It was sad to see that Dara wasn't necessarily uncomfortable with herself, just with how everyone else perceived her.
I was troubled by Dara's relationship with her parents, however. Her mom was always trying to control her life, especially her weight. They dwelled on her pagaent-winning past instead of seeing the person Dara was in the present. But when she went to meet her sister, she finally figured out that family are people that love and accept you and would never try to change you, no matter what.
Overall, this was a poignant story that was easy to relate to. An impressive debut from Megan Frazer!
4 out of 5 stars