Perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell, Making Pretty is a raw, romantic coming-of-age about the complexities of family, the boundaries of love, and the realities of growing up in a culture that prizes beauty above nearly anything else.
Montana and her older sister Arizona have always been a team, sticking together through their plastic surgeon dad's string of divorces—and his not-so-subtle belief that "surgical assists" can be an asset to any woman. But when Arizona comes home from college with a boob job, the rift between the sisters feels insurmountable.
As summer in New York City heats up and Montana and Arizona grow apart, Montana befriends wild, bold, 23-year-old Karissa, who encourages her to live in Technicolor and chase new experiences—like a cute boy in the park. Bernardo becomes a beautiful distraction, and he looks at Montana in the way she wants to be seen. For the first time, she understands how you can become both lost and found in somebody else. But when that love becomes everything, where does it leave the rest of her imperfect life?
New York City native Montana, feeling abandoned now that both her older sister and her best friend have left for college, is thrilled to be hanging out with Karissa, a charismatic aspiring actress who's 23 to Montana's 17. When Montana's sister, Arizona, returns home for the summer, a further betrayal awaits: Arizona has broken the sisters' pledge to never have "work done" (their oft-remarried father is a plastic surgeon). Haydu's (Life by Committee) dialogue shines, and she effectively conveys Montana's confused yearnings and resentments ("Arizona is bustier and sadder, things that go hand in hand in my opinion"), but the plot soon becomes overly complicated. Karissa turns out to be involved with Montana and Arizona's father, forcing the sisters to struggle with their loyalties; Montana acquires an excessively devoted boyfriend; and she's still grappling with self-image and her father's belief that every woman needs a surgical assist. The title suggests that this is Haydu's focus, but the many plot developments including multiple marriage proposals and visits to former stepmothers leave the book feeling somewhat overstuffed and jumbled. Ages 14 up.