The stakes aren't high enough,
This review is from: The Look (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Although I'm no longer a teenager, I picked this up because it combines two of the themes I loved to read about most when I was in my teens - cancer and modelling. I was possibly a rather morbid young person, but I still love to read about medical crises, and although my interest in young model/actress/ballet dancer stories has waned somewhat, I thought it would be interested to see how these two rather cliched ideas worked together. Ted has always felt less attractive than her older sister, Ava, so it's a shock when she's the one scouted by a model agent. At the same time, Ava falls ill with cancer. Can Ted deal with the new demands of her life as a model while being there for Ava as her life falls apart?
I enjoyed the realistic presentation of Ted's career as a model - for example, the endless number of failed go-sees she attends even after being signed by a model agency, which many YA novels use as the catalyst for the heroine's career going stratospheric. Ted and Ava are both likeable, well-written characters, and I also became very fond of their dad, an unemployed history professor - it was pretty predictable that he'd be presented as eccentric and scatty, but I still found him a fun character to read about. However, I felt that the novel ultimately failed by not raising the stakes high enough, plot-wise. There was curiously little attention paid to the progress of Ava's treatment and the details of her life with cancer. Although the novel is narrated in first-person by Ted, I felt that there should have been a greater focus on Ava's story - even if this meant including Ava as a narrating character as well. Sophie Bennett also misses a trick by giving Ava stage II Hodgkin's lymphoma, which (says this novel) has a 90% cure rate. Although this is obviously good news for Ava, this robbed her plot-line of a lot of its tension - she goes through the horrible experience of treatment, but the reader can feel fairly assured that she will ultimately be safe. I felt that a more fatal type of cancer ought to have been chosen to increase the reader's emotional involvement with Ava, and also to make Ted's decisions more vital. A deus ex machina near the end of the novel also robs Ted's choice of much of its consequences.
I think this is a book that teenagers would definitely enjoy, despite its flaws, if they can get past the horrendous design (violently pink pages does not an elegant book make). It was an entertaining read, but not one I will remember for long.