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Grade 7 Up—Shelby, 13, and her three sisters, ages 16, 8, and 6, have different fathers. They live in early-1980s Chicago with their free-spirited mother, Helen, a striking and beauty-obsessed Japanese bombshell. Helen is a cult of personality unto herself, and the older girls happily care for the younger ones while Mom collects boyfriends. When she is in a disfiguring car accident, the girls separate to live with their fathers. Shelby's dad is a kind, level-headed Japanese greenhorn, while six-year-old Maddie's, an Anglo, is a patronizing, abusive bully. The four girls plot their escape—back to Helen, but really back to one another. The novel is oddly missing pop-culture references, so the '80s setting is perplexing and extraneous. The first chapters of the book are packed with contrived, purposefully madcap shenanigans and creaky, expository dialogue. Once the scene is set, though, Shelby settles into a more natural, thoughtful voice, and the surprisingly gripping plot gains pace and substance. The cloyingly devil-may-care mood of the opening turns mercifully more sober and suspenseful as the girls' troubles deepen. The sisters have distinct, authentic voices, and their conversations are smooth, snappy, and believable. The male characters are well drawn too, especially Shelby's sweet, hilarious father, who gets the best lines in the book. Shelby's running commentary on beauty is smart and poignant, as is her portrayal of a mother she both loves and reviles.—Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library
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Shelby, Maddie, Lakey, and Marilyn have the same mother but four different fathers. Their Japanese mother is obsessed with her beauty, which she uses to charm the men she meets and seduces in order to keep her family solvent. The four Chicago sisters have primarily raised themselves and are incredibly close. Late one night, their world shifts after they learn that their mother has been injured in an auto accident and will require extensive plastic surgery. The girls can’t stay alone, so they are separated and farmed out to their fathers. Only Shelby and her father, Jiro, reach each other’s hearts, and it’s Jiro who eventually understands that the sisters need to be together. His realization only comes, though, after the girls’ enact a junior-high version of a Thelma & Louise auto escape. Kadohata, author of the Newbery Medal–winner Kira-Kira (2004), never fully develops the theme of beauty that’s implied by the title, but Shelby’s venture to Arkansas, where she has some first experiences with outdoor living, is endearing, as are the relationships among the closely connected sisters. Grades 6-9. --Cindy DobrezSee all Editorial Reviews
This book totally covered the relationship that lyes deep in the pits of a sisterhood relationship.
LOVED IT! Read more
Shelby's mother Helen is a knockout. With a beautiful face, a lovely figure and a string of boyfriends, Helen's life is unsettled. Read morePublished on July 30, 2010 by Sharif
I dove into this eagerly because of the young, fresh voices and the era, as well as the emotional complexity of the familial and sisterly connections. Read morePublished on June 24, 2010 by S. A. Farley
I really enjoyed this read. Shelby, the protaginist, recounts the series of events in her life as one of 4 sisters... Read morePublished on May 9, 2009 by S. Harrison
I asked my wife to read this book as it is more her cup of tea and being a literature degree holder, I trust her opinion. Read morePublished on December 5, 2008 by kamus
Being half Okinawan (Asian),I was intrigued by this book. First the positives:
Being a book targeted for 'young adults', I thoroughly enjoyed reading a book that I... Read more
As a child who grew up without parents, I was drawn to this book. At first it was interesting and fast paced but the author's way of writing is distracting. Read morePublished on October 6, 2008 by Marilyn J. Adams
When I first picked up this book, I was unfamiliar with the author and wasn't sure what to expect. Despite it been a "teen" book, it was engaging and I had to keep telling myself,... Read morePublished on September 16, 2008 by Emily E. Brown