Crapometer #15

Young Adult Category



Carla Dalton knows she's a little dorky looking, but pretends she doesn't care. She concentrates on making As, hanging out with her best friend, Sue Ann, and ignoring everyone else. Her protective bubble is pierced when the Mean Girl Society makes her the latest target of their malicious web site.

Everyone starts laughing at her. She finds out what's going on from an obese girl named Thelma who was the previous target of the web site. When even one of the lunchroom ladies laughs, Carla snaps and grabs the little woman in the parking lot. The woman claims to be a leprechaun, appropriately named Leppra, and offers Carla one wish. She wishes to be the most beautiful, most popular girl in high school, which surprises the heck out of her, and annoys Leppra. Apparently, most people wish for money, which is way easier.

Carla thinks it's a dream, but wakes up the next day as Gorgeous Girl. Leppra shows up and reads the rules from her Palm Pilot. It thoroughly annoys Carla that this ancient creature has more modern technology than she does.

Carla's blown away by her mom's reaction. At first, Carla has to help her to the couch where she sits looking dazed. Eventually, though, she is amazingly cool about accepting the new daughter, although Carla continues to suspect she likes the old one best. (better)

What upsets Mom more than the magical transformation is the cruelty of the snobbish girls. She's also major disturbed that Carla was so ashamed of her looks and unhappy at school.

Carla enrolls as Alyssa Carpenter, posing as Carla's cousin from California. Carla supposedly had a breakdown. Almost immediately, Alyssa's, like, queen of the school. The jocks want to date her and The Populars want her for their group. That's fun, but she decides her mission is to make the web site creators pay for their crimes.

She goes to the computer lab to check out the geeks who created the site. Fatal move. There is a totally cute guy there. What's more, he's rude and aloof--exactly the sort of thing to attract her. Now, she has two missions, Alan and revenge. Revenge is moving to the back burner.

She connects with Alan, big time, but soon the spell is over. When she becomes plain old Carla again, she can't face him. Her mom tells Alan that Alyssa has gone back to California, taking Carla with her.

Meanwhile, Mom locates Ralph, Carla's long-departed father. Now fairly wealthy, Ralph agrees to pay for a nose job. He should--it's his nose. Finally, Carla's pretty without magic, unless you count plastic surgery as magic. She still loves Alan, but he loves Alyssa, who will always be perfect.

Carla is in her third incarnation in high school, the uncool dork, the magic beauty and the very pretty Carla. Being pretty is great, but Carla realizes her attitude was part of the problem. If she'd been friendly and bubbleless (bubbly?), she would have been happier, even with The Nose.

Alyssa had convinced the Populars that being a cheerleader was small town corny and they resigned. Now Carla and Sue Ann try out for cheerleader and make it.

Thelma and Carla cook up a plan wherein an actor friend comes to school and arrests the mean girls for causing emotional harm, with web site cruelty.

Carla gets to know her real father, who isn't as perfect as her imaginary one was, but is quite a good guy.

Best of all, Alan finally falls in love with the real Carla.

I loved this, right up to the nose job. It’s a good synopsis, crisp clean, and conveys voice really, like totally, well. The plot falls apart at the end which is one reason writing a synopsis is a good idea. When you see "cooks up a plan to have someone arrested for web site cruelty" right there in black and white, you know you've got a problem. Time for the leprauchan to return I think.

I’d never take on a book that has a teen girl having plastic surgery, but that’s just me.


incognito agent said...

I am in total agreement with Miss Snark. The nose job would be a deal-breaker for me.

Jen said...

I love that this one has a leprechaun; in my opinion, the children's/YA market could use a few more leprechauns. That said, I think the market is absolutely overrun with "I wish I was pretty and popular" teen girl stories, and this one doesn't seem to have the edge that many of them do. I actually think it might make a better middle grade than young adult, minus the nose job.

Your mean girls seem from the synopsis to lack some of the finesse and almost maniacally brilliant cruelty of the average high school queen bee; middle schoolers aren't quite as proficient at the game yet. For example, I find it hard to believe that the high school girls would be falling over their feet at Alyssa's appearance. More likely, they'd be protecting their claim to the boys while looking for a way to cut the mighty Alyssa down to size. In a way, that part of the story rings very untrue to me- if you have a gorgeous girl and a nondescript girl, neither of whom are terribly confident, chances are, the gorgeous new girl is going to have more trouble with the A-list than the mousy one. They may be nice to her face, but they'll be ten times meaner than they ever were to Carla behind Alyssa's back. Your theme seems to be that the looks and the popularity don't bring Carla happiness, but you miss what seems to me to be the most crucial part of this: popular girls are mean to each other, as well as to the out group. In fact, in-group rivalries are usually far more vicious, if more subtle. If a new girl moves to town and "all the jocks want to date her," she's in trouble. If she's used to being picked on and can't defend herself, she's in big, big trouble.

The other small thing I'd change is some of the names; they sound a bit old. You've got three main characters (Carla, Alan, Sue Ann), all of whom have names that peaked at least a generation ago. It makes the story sound (to me) a bit dated.

Oh, and Ms. Snark, I think the "bubbleless" part was a reference to Carla's protective bubble, not to her unbubbly nature.

Emjay said...
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Emjay said...

Thank you, Miss Snark, for the love. From what I've heard from others, your main complaint is probably on the mark.

I really, really want to defend myself, but it is, of course, insane to argue with Miss S, as she is always right.

So, writing from the loony bin, here is my defense. I absolutely would not advocate plastic surgery for most teens, particularly if they just want to look like Britney Spears. I've always admired Barbra Streisand for refusing the advice to have her nose done. It goes with her face, is distinctive, and she's attractive with it.

However, if I had a child with a disfiguration, such as a birthmark, I'd do everything I could to correct it.

The book makes clear that Carla is slim with a small face and a really huge nose that obscures the attractive features of her face. She not only thinks it's ugly--it IS ugly. She later admits that she could probably have been happier without the new nose if she had changed her personality, but she had to get the new nose to realize this.

She's no little kid; she's a senior, almost eighteen. I don't think it's a mortal sin, or even a venial one (whatever those are).

Agreed, it's way overdone and should be reserved for rare case.

Anyway- I really don't want to rewrite the second half of the book.

Emjay said...
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Emjay said...
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Emjay said...

I appreciate the comment about the names being dated. However, I will only change one of them as the other two are plain on purpose.

The names of the other girls in the novel have all passed the teenage test.

The main strengths of this book are the likeability of the main character, and the humor.

I don't have a cardinal rule against nose jobs, but I do have one against blaming mean parents and neglect for everything. I didn't do that.

I also have a rule about dogs. The dogs don't die! Ever.

Emjay said...
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