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on July 3, 2008
It's always been Shelby, her mom, and her three sisters. The story is told through Shelby's eyes. She is the second eldest of the four. They live in an untraditional family, to say the least. Each of the sisters has a different father. And they each have different ancestry, as well. One is half Japanese, half Italian. One is half Japanese and half Chinese. One is half Japanese and half Anglo. And Shelby is all Japanese.

Their mom has always been on the quest for eternal beauty and the rich husband. None of the girls' fathers have satisfied her, even though Lakey's father, Larry, wants to marry her. It's only after learning of Larry's engagement to another woman that Helen realizes what she could've had.

Even with the bizarre family ties, the girls and their mother are close. They do everything together. And though maybe unconventional, their mother has done a good job raising the girls. It's only after her mother is in a serious car accident that their world crumbles. Since none of the girls are legally adults, Helen must arrange homes for the girls while she recovers.

It is decided that each of the girls will go to live with their respective fathers. Shelby has only seen her father a handful of times. Jiro is a reserved man, living a quiet life in Arkansas. Except for the fact that he dresses terribly uncool, as the summer unfolds, Shelby realizes he's not a bad man, just unknown to her.

It's Maddie that has the worst situation. Her father, Mr. Bronson, has been legally trying to obtain custody of her, stating Helen is an unfit mother. He's a stern disciplinarian, and Maddie's personality starts to disappear, living in his oppressive home.

When notified that their mother may die, all the girls are flown home to be with her. The girls take matters into their own hands when they fear that they could be permanently separated if the worst happens. They will do anything they can to keep their family unit together, and to save Maddie.

Ms. Kadohata writes a powerfully moving novel of four girls struggling to keep the lives they've always known. Separated from each other, they can barely survive. Looking in from the outside, the reader knows what is going on, but feels powerless to stop the momentum that is driving their lives. After reading OUTSIDE BEAUTY, the reader will come away with a wonderful feeling of family, and of how love can pull you through anything.

Reviewed by: Jaglvr
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on August 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The book jacket lists this book for ages 12+. But I would strongly encourage parents and teachers to pre-read this book before recommending it to anyone under about 15. While there is nothing explicit or graphic in the book, there are a number of references to very casual sexual activity among adults (not wearing panties to parties, trading `favors' for car service, a date expecting to `get what he has paid for'). These incidents are reported very dispassionately by the 13 year old protagonist, as it is just commonplace in her life. That fits perfectly for the voice of this character. But I personally would not want to give this to a preteen or young teen who is just starting to gather clues about how people behave sexually. I think it would be fine for a mid or older teen.

That said, I found Outside Beauty to be a great read. The basic plot and premise of the story is unique. It's the story of a single mother and her four daughters. The mother is quite shallow and values beauty (and what it can get her) above all else. She teaches these values quite effectively to her young brood. Because of an accident, the girls are split up and sent to live with different fathers, in very different living situations. It's a beautiful story of how a strong familial bond will overcome exceptional circumstances.

Outside Beauty is told from the viewpoint of the second-oldest daughter, Shelby. I found the "voice" of this character to be very authentic. I enjoyed the variety of characters in this novel. Each daughter and each father has a distinct personality. Although each character is fairly one-dimensional, and some are stereotypical, it works quite well as an ensemble.
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VINE VOICEon August 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book was a fun romp from start to finish. Although not the typical type of book I normally read, I enjoyed it very much. This book is about Helen, a beautiful Japanese woman, and her four daughters:

(In birth order, oldest to youngest)

1) Marilyn - half Japanese and half Italian; father: Mack.

2) Shelby - half Japanese and half Japanese (which would make her full Japanese); father: Jiro

3) Lakey - half Japanese and half Chinese; father: Larry

4) Maddie - half Japanese and half Anglo; father: Mr. Bronson

Helen is an extremely beautiful woman who takes full advantages of her astonishing beauty. Because of this beauty, she does not have to work; she can take advantage of men and let them support her. She is so beautiful, she can afford to only deal with the rich, successful winners - not the junky losers. She goes through boyfriends like water. This seems unrealistic, but there are realistic parallels that make it seem more realistic. Such as, the men don't always wait around for her - they find other women; she isn't necessarily happy and might be lonely; men fight even beautiful women for custody; accidents and bad things can happen even to the beautiful. (The moral I see in it: 'Do not envy Helen or any other woman like her'.)

Even though Helen is nontypical and off the beaten path, she is a wonderful mother and loves her four daughters. The four sisters love each other and would do anything for each other (which says a lot). Helen was doing something right as a mother, obviously.

This lovely book, narrated by the second oldest daughter, Shelby, is a wonderful tale of the four sisters and their bond and their adventures. Even though Helen is a glamorous women living in Chicago, I enjoyed the "trip" to rural Arkansas, complete with lightning bugs, a goat, hills, and various vegetation. I also enjoyed the road trips.

This book was very well written. Characterization was well developed and vivid. I felt as if I knew the four sisters and the fathers, even better than I knew Helen. The author did very well.

This was a wonderful and fun book from start to finish. I enjoyed the loving bond between the sisters. I enjoyed the adventures. I also enjoyed the fathers. (The fathers each had different personalities. My favorite was Jiro.) I enjoyed the whole book. I would highly recommend this book.
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on August 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is about a mother with 4 girls who thinks her appearance matters more than anything. The story is told through the eyes of her 2nd oldest daughter. The girls are very close to each other and their somewhat eccentric mother. This is a great read and well-written. However, due to some mature references and concepts, I would not recommend it for preteens. OK for a high schooler.

The story tells of how the girls come into their own after their mother's car accident. She may die and the girls must deal with imperfect fathers as well as their own feelings. Despite the premise - one mom with 4 girls by 4 dads, the girls learn some good things: a woman can be valued for more than her beauty, running away isn't always the answer, sometimes it's good to love some one back, etc...

Very well-written, lots of fun, some ups & down. Highly Recommended!
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VINE VOICEon August 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the second book I ordered recently that surprised me. I didn't realize this was a young adult book. I had surmised that the sisters were young from the description, but I didn't know the book was written from the point of view of a 13 year-old. The sisters are 6, 8, 13 and 16 years old when their mother is injured and they get sent to live with their respective fathers. It's the first time in their lives they've been without their mother and each other. The girls are precocious on some level because of the crazy lifestyle they've lived with their single, man-crazy mother. That's why running away doesn't really scare them much. They know how to pick up at a moment's notice and run away from a crazy boyfriend. But I think there is so much they don't know, too, because the things their mother tells them are important are really very shallow. She wants them to grow up to be beautiful and mannered so they can attract and live off men. She isn't teaching them to be confident, strong women who can make it on their own.
I thought the story was okay but there was no real resolution at the end, no sign that the mother was going to change her ways. I think, for at least two of the girls, being forced to spend time with their fathers actually benefited them.
I guess this would be an okay book for teens. As an adult, I thought it was pleasant enough. If nothing else, it's nice to read a story of sisters so devoted to each other.
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on August 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I read this in one day. It is a wonderful story about four girls and their relationship with their mother and each of their very different fathers.

The story is told from the point of view of Shelby, second oldest at 13 years old. There is also, Marilyn, Lakey and Maddie. They have been raised by their mother until now and she has taught them the importance of outward beauty and being perfect in every way. Well.....she taught the girls about make up and jewelry and relationships or how to get out of relationships. She doesn't work, her job is to get boyfriends and get as much out of them as possible.

Then one day something happens and the girls are split up to stay with their respective fathers. They have never been apart and depend entirely one another. What transpires and what they learn is a very funny and engaging story.

I really enjoyed this book.
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VINE VOICEon August 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Four sisters, Marilyn, Lakey, Maddie & Shelby all live with their mother who makes her living off of being nice to men and using her appearance to find new boyfriends to finance her lifestyle.
All her daughters have different fathers and see very little of them until their mother is horribly injured in a traffic accident and is hospitalized.
The girls are separated and try valiantly to write letters to each other and make phone calls when they can. Getting used to the personalities of their fathers takes time and the youngest Maddie has the hardest time since her dad punishes her for bedwetting and tries to instill a routine that is too controlling for a 6 year old.
Once her other sisters realize the change in Maddie's personality, they can do very little from their distant locations to comfort her.
Shelby is the narrator of the entire story and when their mom's health comes to a crucial point the girls are quickly reunited to see her in the hospital to either say a final goodbye or to help spark her will to live.
During the extended visit, the girls are staying together at their old apartment and they decide to run away to save Maddie from going back to her dad's home. They make a nerve-wracking getaway but do end up getting caught and when facing their dads again they stand their ground and make their opinions heard about their living arrangements.
The girls all learn lessons about life and that their dads mean well and have differences they can appreciate too.
I must admit I did find it a tiny bit weird that they didn't argue more at times. ;-)
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on August 28, 2008
Title: Outside Beauty

Author: Cynthia Kadohata

Rating: 3.5/5

Good:

I really like the concept of this book. The thought that four girls, who are technically only half-sisters but who consider themselves to be sisters, was really interesting to read about. It's not something you think about, really, or expect to see in a book, but here it is.

The characters in this book were all unique; each sister had their own personality, and their mother was by far the most fascinating person out of them all. I find myself wanting to know more about her past, and how she came to be how she is. I am also interested in her future, and what happened after the last page.

Bad:

I really disliked the pacing of this book. It seemed almost rushed, and too much time passed by too quickly. It seemed like the author relied more on feelings and relationships than on details and descriptions, which fit some parts of the books but ruined other parts.

It was mostly the lack of details that ruined this book for me. I understand the message, and I completely respect the idea behind it all, but it seemed like there was too much missing out of the story for me to really feel like it ended.

Overall, though, it wasn't bad. I'd just say it wasn't great, either.
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on July 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Outside Beauty is a wonderful book about how consumed a woman can be by the external and the impact it can have on her children. The mother in this story truly believes that staying beautiful will lead her to a rich husband and happiness. She seems completely oblivious to the fact that she has given birth to four girls, for four men and is not currently married to any of them.

What is particularly heartwarming about Outside Beauty is how much the girls love their mother, and how much she loves them in her cavalier, strange way. The girls basically have their own personalities, created in large part by how they are mothered. There is the emerging beauty, the caretaker, the outlier and the baby.

When tragedy strikes the family, the reader is allowed to see how loving and savvy these young girls are and how a family who places family first can survive, almost anything. Outside Beauty is a wonderful, quirky story to be enjoyed by all ages. Kudos, Ms. Kadohata.

Angelia Vernon Menchan, author;
Is No Not Clear Enough For You
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VINE VOICEon August 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
All their lives, four young sisters have listened to their mother tell them how to be beautiful. Nothing is as important as catching a man, Helen says.

Then one terrible day, Helen is in an accident. Her four daughters are each farmed out to their fathers - four different men - and life is suddenly turned upside down. No longer is anything they've been accustomed to hearing true; their fathers force them to live entirely different lives, and worst of all, the girls don't even have one another for moral support, except through letters.

As told through the eyes of second-oldest sister Shelby, the girls rally to return to their former way of life before it's too late. But what will become of Helen, whose serious injuries have disfigured her face and body?

In this fast-paced YA novel, Kadohata examines the different types of beauty found in life -- not just physical, but emotional, and in relationships -- as the young sisters learn that change isn't always a bad thing.
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