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Brilliant (Avery Sisters Trilogy) Hardcover – May 25, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—This final, stand-alone book in the Avery sisters trilogy that includes Lucky (2008) and Gorgeous (2009, both HarperCollins) is told from 16-year-old Quinn's point of view. The eldest child, she has always been the dependable daughter, loyal to her parents and a good girl who works hard and excels at everything. But her mom's loss of her high-paying job—and her need for a lawyer—is taking a toll on the whole family, Quinn included, as they prepare to move out of their home and face an uncertain future. Suddenly her behavior is very un-Quinn-like (kissing her sister's ex, making out with guys at parties, admitting her feelings to her longtime crush), but ultimately freeing, as she comes to acknowledge her parents' flaws as well as her own. Good girls and rebels alike will be able to identify with this adolescent rite of passage; Quinn's response is realistic, her friends and family are well drawn, and her happy-enough ending is hard won. A natural choice for teens waiting for their next Sarah Dessen fix.—Laurie Slagenwhite Walters, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, MI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Praise for Brilliant: “Good girls and rebels alike will be able to identify with this adolescent rite of passage. A natural choice for teens waiting for their next Sarah Dessen fix.” (School Library Journal)

“Vail has done a superb job. Readers who pick this title up will definitely want to backtrack to the earlier titles, and those who’ve heard Phoebe’s and Allison’s takes won’t want to miss Quinn’s.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

“Vail ends this trilogy on a high note, one that should especially resonate with teens whose lives have changed with the economy. ” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Vail shows a clear understanding of the everyday turmoil faced by today’s teens and handles them with wit and obvious affection. If they haven’t already read its predecessor, Lucky (2008), teens will want to after finishing this one.” (Kirkus Reviews)

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Product Details

  • Series: Avery Sisters Trilogy (Book 3)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 edition (May 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060890495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060890490
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,395,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rachel Vail Author Biography

1. What is your favorite childhood memory?

Can't say I have just one, but here is one among many: My father, an avid amateur gardener, had determined to get rid of a rock in the middle of his flower bed in our backyard. The rock turned out to be the size of Tennessee, but he just kept digging for a few years, trying to budge the thing, which created an ever-changing landscape for backyard adventures. My younger brother Jon was my constant companion out there, and our favorite game was "Time Machine," which involved a mysterious metal thing sticking up from the ground - obviously a gear shift for moving into the past or future. Jon was the pilot, in charge of bringing us to different times, depending on how he moved the mysterious metal thing. I was the "teller": I would tell the story of what time period we landed in, what was happening, the dangers we faced, which bad guys were chasing us around the back, the rock, and the Way Back (where we weren't even supposed to go but we did; don't tell!), what we needed to collect around the yard -- a magic gem, a twig from the tree of wonder -- and how we would be able to get back to our time Machine to get back to home and the present when my Mom called to us to come in for dinner.

My younger son was complaining yesterday that the problem with grownups is that they don't play as runny-aroundy as kids. He is absolutely right.

2. What is your favorite memory from when you were a teenager?

How about my least favorite but most useful? I was at a dance at the Rye Golf Club with my best friend, Jill. We had decided to really go for it, get all duded up and mascara'ed. I wore my hottest outfit -- a one-piece, strapless pantsuit. (It was the early 80's; that's what was hot. Trust me.) We had practiced dancing all week: step-together-clap; slightly bored expression combined with slight head-bobbing. Luck was with us at first -- two cute boys came right over to ask us to dance. I looked slightly bored while repeating my mantra internally: step-together-clap, nod. The boy was smiling at me, checking me out. I was succeeding! Jill step-together-clapped her way to my side and said, "Don't panic, but your top fell off." I looked down and there for everybody to see was my white strapless bra, looking like an ace bandage across my lack-of-anything to hold up my wilted outfit. I ran straight to the Ladies' Room with my arms crossed over my chest. Jill was right behind me, and sat beside me on the cold linoleum as I cried. "I was naked," I wailed. "Only briefly," Jill assured me. "I am never leaving this Ladies' Room," I told her. "Okay," she said. "I'll stay here with you." "Forever?" I asked. "Sure," she said. "We'll be two little old ladies here when they come to wreck the building, but we still won't leave." "I'm serious," I said. "Me too," she answered.

I recall that moment whenever I am writing and my character needs to feel the soul-burning humiliation of being exposed in front of the world -- whether figuratively or literally. I can still feel the cold shivers in my fingers, still smell the disinfectant in the restroom, still hear the distant echoes of the disco beat beyond as I sat there feeling utterly stupid and naked and embarrassed. But I also use it when I want to feel how reassuring it is for a character to realize a friend is willing to stick with her forever, no matter what.

3. How did you end up becoming a writer?

What I always loved to do was read, tell stories, imagine being other people, eavesdrop, and not wear shoes. What else could I end up becoming?

4. What other jobs have you tried?

I worked in a book store, which I loved except when people interrupted my reading by trying to make purchases. I was a really good babysitter and a lousy magician but kind of a fun clown at kids' birthday parties. I worked in theater -- acting, directing, selling tickets, dressing and undressing actors (!), ironing costumes, sewing stuff... I still can't make buttons stay on all that well, but I am a pretty decent ironer. I also tutored for SAT's, and GRE's, as well as regular school subjects from bio and algebra to English and writing, and specialized in working with kids who have learning troubles.

5. What first appealed to you about writing for teens?

Well, I started writing my first book when I was 22, so I'd had some recent experience. But really there were two things. I had always looked young for my age, and used to vow to myself that I would remember what it really felt like to be a kid and NEVER condescend when I grew up but rather bear witness to and show respect for the struggles of metamorphosis experienced by a teen going through it. Also, a brilliant playwrighting professor I had in college told us that drama exists in the life-or-death moments: those instances when the character's life is at mortal risk are the scenes you should write. I realized that he had just described pretty much every moment of being a teenager. Just a walk down the corridor in eighth grade can feel like a death march, if somebody looks at you sideways, then slides her eyes away and bends to whisper to somebody else, who turns immediately to look at you -- and snickers. Oh, dread. Life could end or begin at any moment, beside your locker, and the murder weapon, like your pride, might never be recovered. That's what continues to appeal to me about writing for teens: metamorphosis. It's so awful and wonderful and public and extreme.

6. Where do you get your ideas for your books?

Mostly, honestly, in my head. I pick up details of phrases or styles of sitting from watching people all the time, and listening, eavesdropping, on the subway, in the market, in the changing room of a department store. Kids write to me about what they are going through, and of course I have my own journals to re-read, so I mine my own memories and fears and hopes. But mostly my ideas come from wondering: what would happen if my parents suddenly lost all their money? ... if I always thought of myself as kind of funny-looking and suddenly I was chosen for being gorgeous? What if I discovered I was profoundly gifted in some way? What if I learned something shatteringly disappointing about my mom? What if I fell in love with somebody I shouldn't? What if I lied to my best friend and then had to keep lying so she wouldn't find out? What if my best friend lied to me and I found out? What would be the worst thing that could happen to me? What would be the best? But I am not asking those questions of myself, Rachel Vail. I build a character over the course of many months, and then ask those kinds of questions of her - until I get to the start of an answer that is so interesting to me that I have to write a book to find out what happens.

6. Who in your life has especially inspired or motivated you?

So many people have motivated and inspired me -- teachers who asked for revisions and edits and focus; librarians who found books for me and communicated their passion to me; friends who are funny and honest about whatever they are going through and so articulate about expressing their frustrations and ambitions; my husband who believes in me and laughs at all the right moments; my kids who come home with stories and ask to hear mine, again and again, and then give me harsh but loving (and smart) editorial feedback. My brother taught me to tell stories by wanting to play them with me; my parents were my first and most enthusiastic audience (before my kids came along, at least.) Now editors and my agent, who are some of my first readers, press me to think deeper, go further, try new challenges. I'm also inspired by great writers: when I read something I love, I read it again and again, trying to figure out how did he or she DO that? I want to move people the way my favorite writers (from John Steinbeck to Judy Blume to Bruce Springsteen) move me. And finally, readers who write to me with their honest and powerful reactions to my books, asking for sequels and for clarification of what happens after the book ends, who let me know that my characters live on beyond the page, in them -- they are my greatest current inspiration.

7. What do you consider to be the most fun part of your job?

The absolute most fun thing for me as a writer is getting to the point in a book, usually about 20 or more drafts in, when a sentence is changed, sometimes by cutting three words or substituting one phrase for four -- and suddenly the character has just said something so right for her, so true and funny and wise and so unique to that character that nobody else could've said it. That just makes my whole day. Man, I could be happy for a week off one great sentence.

8. What part of your job do you find the most challenging?

The first 19 drafts.

9. If you had to assign a book title to your life, what would it be?

I'm not sure. I'm hoping there will be many more years before that book is done. Maybe, by then, it will be: The Most Brilliant, Happy, Successful, Generous Person Ever. But for right now, I think I would have to go with the title of my new paperback book, which could apply with perhaps less irony to my own phenomenally blessed life: LUCKY.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on September 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In two previous novels, Rachel Vail has explored the ups and downs of Avery sisters Phoebe (in LUCKY) and Allison (in GORGEOUS). Now, in her third and final book about this family in crisis, Vail turns her attention to oldest sister Quinn.

Quinn is the mature one, the responsible one, the one her mother chooses as a confidante and her sisters choose as a role model ("the one who handles things well and doesn't curse"). She gets good grades, has nice friends (even if they're a bit nerdy and their idea of a good time is watching a "West Wing" marathon), and has landed the perfect resume-building job for the summer before junior year. She'll be a counselor at a day camp for underprivileged kids, a job not without its ironies: "Like all the other counselors...I am (or at least have been) overprivileged, and this job, while fulfilling on its own merits, was also designed, not just coincidentally, to help me get into an elite college eventually, so that I could continue on my overprivileged path."

The trouble is, Quinn and her family aren't feeling quite so overprivileged anymore. Quinn's mom, formerly the breadwinner, has lost her high-powered job amid a financial mismanagement scandal. And, in turn, the Avery family has lost its staff, its home, even many of its most valuable possessions, including the piano Quinn loves, not least because it gives her a connection with her teacher's son, Oliver, on whom she's had a crush forever. Quinn is confused, angry, and more than a little resentful toward her mom. So it's no real surprise that good-girl Quinn, the brilliant one in the family, starts making some really stupid choices.

First, she steals a pair of her mom's fabulous (and fabulously expensive) high-heeled shoes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on August 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The last book of the Avery sisters' trilogy comes from the eldest sister, Quinn's, perspective. She's always been the one in control, the good girl, the serious girl, and the nerdy girl. Her youngest sister is lucky and her middle sister is gorgeous. Quinn finds herself wanting to compete with them and become someone. Quinn wants to shed her good girl image.

A new friend she meets at camp might help her. She wants to fix up Quinn and her best friend with boys. They start going to parties and meeting new people. Quinn isn't sure she wants a boyfriend, since she's been crushing over her piano teacher for years, who is now in college. He's slowly beginning to notice her just as she has other dating options.

Besides finding herself, Quinn's family is going through a rough patch. Her mother's in hot water at work. The family must sell their home and downsize considerably. Quinn's always held her mother in high regard, but now she doesn't know how to feel. She's angry, hurt, and confused.

With boy trauma, family upheaval, and trying to change her image, will she go off the deep end?

BRILLIANT is the simultaneous companion story to LUCKY and GORGEOUS from the eldest sister's perspective. The three grow up, find themselves, and find their true strength in these books about sisters, romance, friendship, and dreams - all while dealing with family drama.

Reviewed by: Jennifer Rummel
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Deborah VINE VOICE on May 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Due to being part of a three girl family, I always look forward to reading books that focus on families involving three sisters. I have been especially looking to this story as it focuses on the eldest daughter, which being one myself I always can relate too. This book was a nice step back into realism as the second book in the series, which focused on Allison, involved some situations that could be as fantasy.

While I enjoyed the book, I was a bit disappointed at how Quinn was portrayed in this book. I guess after reading the first two books in the series that were from the younger sisters' POVs, I just assumed that Quinn was more mature and older than what she really was. I'm not sure if it's because that's how her sisters viewed her and that's just how she came across because it was through their eyes. It wasn't anything that was traumatic but I just thought that she would have handled things differently. I was glad to finally find out what exactly the girls' mother had done to the company. The other books kept giving hints but we never knew what it was until now. I can't say that I agreed with everything that the family did but it was obvious that they do love each other and a close family.

I really have loved the covers of the books of this series and Brilliant is another beautiful one. I don't even like the shoes but they look absolutely lovely on the cover. The colors just pop out at you and the simplicity of the cover really makes a statement. As I stated, this is the third book in the series about the Avery sisters. While this book could be read as a standalone, I highly recommend reading the first two books in the series to get a better understanding of the entire Avery family.
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By december on August 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
This was my least favourite of the three novels in the Avery Sisters trilogy. From the beginning, I had a hard time relating to Quinn. In fact, she came out sounding like a very selfish, small person and I was surprised that Rachel Vail decided to paint her that way. Allison and Phoebe turned out to be better representations than the versions they were viewed as, but Quinn turned out to be much worse. She was painted as fake - "the ultimate con girl". I wasn't able to connect with the ultimate con girl. I also can't connect with the girl who kissed her sister's boyfriend.

In an effort to remain brilliant, zen, understanding Quinn, she goes a little overboard. Most of the choices she made were just so bad. I know teenagers make bad choices, but Quinn made them all in one night, which really felt unrealistic. I had a little sympathy for her, but honestly not much. I can understanding how heartbreaking it is to lose your sense of self and not know who you are and where you fit into the world. I can even sympathize with losing possessions that represent important moments and memories in your life. I just think Quinn didn't handle the loss very well. Going to a party and getting drunk seem like really poor ways at showing your displeasure and your anger at your parents.

Overall, not a great book. Okay if you want to kill some time.
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