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Waking Beauty: A Novel Paperback – June 22, 2004

3.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Friedman (Then Again) offers up a spunky, spiteful revenge novel about Allison Penny, an ugly 20-something who suddenly wakes up gorgeous—a silly conceit counterbalanced by bulls-eye social commentary and sharply drawn characters. Allison's roommate, Virginie, and her boyfriend, Fraser, have long made Allison's life hell; pretty much everybody is inconsiderate of pretransformation Allison, including her own adoptive mother. Her only friend is Nathan, a video store clerk and aspiring film critic. Early chapters catalogue the injustices of a world in which unattractive people can't get ahead, while later chapters satisfyingly knock down the pins lined up earlier: Allison gets revenge on Virginie, Fraser, her mother and a supporting cast of shop girls, literati and other pretentious types. But she hasn't become beautiful just to get revenge, has she? "Did I have some sort of beauty duty to perform? And if so, what would it be? Posing naked for a PETA billboard? Administering blowjobs to ugly outcasts?" No, but there's a lesson here: "it's what's on the outside that counts." Beautiful Allison gets handsome suitors, job offers—even her mother's affection. But she's kept her sharp, sardonic view of all things superficial, and she still loves homely Nathan. Friedman thumbs her nose at many of the conventions of chick lit, and the nasty bite of her prose offers plenty of guilty pleasure.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Allison Penny, a self-described "troll," is an overweight, unattractive, depressed 22-year-old with a dead-end cleaning job; a disparaging, alcoholic mother; a father who won't acknowledge her; and a roommate who is just plain mean. Her life is on the fast track to nowhere, until one morning, with no explanation, Allison wakes up stunningly beautiful. What's a girl to do but take her new body for a test drive before her luck runs out? It is in this new body that Allison experiences everything she had been missing. In the end she has to learn how to live in the new body and all the problems that come with it, including getting her inner beauty to match her outer beauty. This modern twist on an old fairy tale is funny, sometimes dark, and completely engaging, but the moral is a little pessimistic--it's what's on the outside that counts. But the book's only real flaw lies in a couple of sexual passages that are raw and somewhat out of tone with the rest of the book. Carolyn Kubisz
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1 edition (June 22, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400051061
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400051069
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,990,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Heroine: Stout, then willowy

At the ripe old age of 22, Allison Penny is already sick of life. Her alcoholic mother berates her at every possible chance. The young woman is barely making it as a cleaning lady. And she is rooming with a sex fiend who only serves to remind Allison that her own love life has always and will always be in the toilet because, in a word, Allison Penny is ugly. Well, two words. Not just ugly, but fat.

But all that changes one morning when Allison miraculously awakens to find herself in a new body, one that transcends the supermodel class. Yet after all those years of being certain that a new appearance would be the answer to the pain in her heart, Allison-the-beauty discovers that perfection personified isn't necessarily all that it's cracked up to be.

What worked for me:

This was a very funny book that took a tongue-in-cheek look at the realities of what a person's appearance means in the world--especially a woman's. The choice of characters and settings were excellent, even if they weren't always fully developed. They really helped the reader to delve into the subject of a caste system based upon personal beauty or lack thereof.

I felt that the author made it easy to relate to Allison, both before and after her "miracle". I fully understood the need for Allison-the-ugly to run away into fantasyland and daydream the way she did. And I have to admit there was a certain pleasure to riding along with Allison-the-beauty during her payback times, but the vendettas I enjoyed most weren't a direct result of her new attractiveness.

The ly adverbs that popped up here and there kept catching my eye, but other than that I really enjoyed the writing style in this book.
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By A Customer on July 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
Instead of a rags-to-riches Cinderella story in which a poor girl becomes a princess, Elyse Friedman gives us a beast-to-beauty story in which the altogether uncomely 22-year-old Allison Penny wakes up one morning to find she is suddenly beautiful - and instantly a whole new world of fortune, fame, and love is available to her. The story is complete with a wicked "stepmother" in her adoptive mother and "stepsister" in her roommate. As in some other stories with a similar premise, Allison's first reaction to her astonishing transformation is to take revenge against those who denied her love and friendship because of her previously unlovely appearance. But beyond that, does Allison eventually decide that it's what's inside that counts? What I like about this book is that it doesn't "grow" the character in that obvious direction. Elyse Friedman isn't trying to kid us that what's outside doesn't count...a lot. Allison learns something else. You may be more likely to enjoy this book if you consider yourself one of the beauty-challenged.
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Format: Paperback
This is the story about an overweight, exceptionally homely woman who wakes up one morning with the body and face of a supermodel.
The story doesn't try to explain how this happened, and for me this wasn't a problem. Once you accept the premise, I felt the author did have some interesting things to say about Beauty, and how powerful a force it is in our culture.
I give this book 4 stars because I thought it was a quick, fun, entertaining read. It's not simply a Revenge book, although it's that. It's also a mirror on how our society works.
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By A Customer on July 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is infinitely better than your average chick lit. Elyse Friedman is one of the sharpest, funniest, most observant writers I've read in a long time. The story of her heroine, Allison, could just be turned into a fairytale or wish-fullfillment fantasy, but it winds up being an extremely funny and edgy romp, laced with a lot of black humor and razor-sharp observations about men, women and society. Some of the scenes with Allison's evil roommate, Virginie, or the smoothly handsome suitor George (a Prince Charming who turns out to have some weird sexual proclivities) are worth the price of the book alone.
This will definitely appeal to the Bridget Jones crowd, but it's Bridget Jones with a bite that Bridget never had, and it's far sexier and funnier. This is one of those rare novels that's really worth your money. Read it and enjoy.
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Format: Paperback
Fat, homely, no--ugly Allison wakes up one morning to find herself suddenly and mysteriously super model perfect. As with most Cinderella stories, Allison keeps her own intelligent, usually pleasant personality during the transformation. However, she discovers that the world is different and easier for attractive people--men are infatuated with her, jobs fall into her lap, she is able to get revenge on her nasty room mate, and she finally gets a date with the average guy fat Allison has had a crush on.

Underlying the transormation plot is Allison's relationship with her adoptive parents. Her adopted mother is an alcoholic, and her adoptive father has refused to see or speak to her since she was five. Allison has never sought out her birth mother, assuming her mother would reject Allison as most other people in the world have.

Waking Beauty is dark, cynical, funny, and intriguing. The characters may not be as well developed as they could be, the plot is well done and vibrant, creating an engrossing and enjoyable novel.
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