Book Review: Belles
By: Jen Calonita
Published By: Poppy
Publication Date: April 2012
Page Count: 356
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary Chick Lit
I'm a sucker for a good story set in the South - particularly one set in North Carolina, a state that holds a special place in my heart. I was so excited to finally work this book into my reading schedule. It had been patiently waiting on my Kindle for a time when I could devote my full attention to reading it. I had such high hopes that this book would become a favorite of mine. While I did enjoy the book and am looking forward to the next one, Winter Whites, it wasn't a book that clamored for my attention in every spare moment of free time.
The main weakness of the book is the plot. I didn't feel like there was enough conflict outside of the social issues. Yes, Izzie struggles with fitting into the glamorous world of Emerald Cove after living on "the wrong side of the tracks" in Harborside. Is it really shocking that people judge her for upbringing in a town that they look down upon? I'm not saying that treatment is right at all, but it is predictable. All of the drama in this book centers around that main issue. It got a little tedious for me at times. There are a few plot twists, but those felt a little too predictable to me. Perhaps I have just read too many books that follow this same formula. I loved the characters and felt like they deserved a stronger plot with less predictability.
I would still recommend this book in spite of my issues with the plot - especially to fans of southern Chick Lit. I think Calonita does a great job of bringing the towns of Emerald Cove and Harborside to life. I also enjoyed the commentary on social class. I constantly see my students engaged in drama based on social class and I think it's something that certainly needs analysis. Izzie is a symbol for all the kids who grow up in less than desirable circumstances, but manage to persevere; I liked that she was a strong girl who always fought for what matters most to her. She isn't the sort to sit back and let people boss her around. I also enjoyed analyzing Mira as a dynamic character; her shifts throughout the novel intrigued me and I am excited to see what will happen with her in future books.
This novel is sure to be a hit with those seeking a sweet, clean romance or those who enjoy watching girl drama unfold. There is also a great deal to consider about the nature of friendship and family while reading this novel. The writing is solid and entertaining. I've already got book #2 on my Kindle wishlist. This is exactly the sort of book I reach for when I'm stressed - it's fun and not too serious.
One Last Gripe: I really hated how Mira let Savannah and Taylor boss her around all the time. I never understood what she saw in either of them.
My Favorite Thing About The Book: I really liked how much Izzie and Mira learned about themselves and their world as the novel progressed.
First Sentence: Isabelle Scott kicked her legs, propelling herself to the ocean surface with a final burst of adrenaline even as her lungs screamed for air.
Favorite Character: Izzie
Least Favorite Character: Savannah
Fifteen-year-old Isabelle Scott loves her life by the boardwalk on the supposed wrong side of the tracks in North Carolina. But when tragedy strikes, a social worker sends her to live with a long-lost uncle and his preppy privileged family. Isabelle is taken away from everything she's ever known, and, unfortunately, inserting her into the glamorous lifestyle of Emerald Cove doesn't go so well. Her cousin Mirabelle Monroe isn't thrilled to share her life with an outsider, and, in addition to dealing with all the rumors and backstabbing that lurk beneath their classmates' Southern charm, a secret is unfolding that will change both girls' lives forever.