Book Review: Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein
Eastern and be sure and add the hashtag #TLTCassie to join in and follow along. Dear Cassie is a companion novel to Pretty Amy. Today we are re-running our review of Pretty Amy in preparation for tonight’s chat. Tomorrow I will be reviewing Dear Cassie and doing a Tweet roundup of our discussion.
The next few weeks bring new forms of torture for Amy as she is forced to seek legal help, see a counselor, get a job, volunteer and more all in an attempt to keep Amy out of jail. Jail, she is assured, is not the place she wants to be. Angry, naive and petulant, Amy is finding it hard to participate in operation reform Amy – all she wants to do is kiss Aaron and hang out with Cassie and Lila, now forbidden. Slowly Amy learns that the people in her life she looked up to the most were probably not looking out for her best interests, and that the very people she shunned may actually love her. Sometimes the people we choose are our worst enemies and the people we left behind are still waiting there for us at the end of our journey.
Pretty Amy is anything but. Amy can be really hard to like as she wallows in self-pity, makes bad decisions, and fumes below the surface at her parents for not talking to her without realizing that she is guilty of doing the same. And yet, there are so many teens that are just like Amy. Teens will love Amy because many of them are Amy. As a reader you cringe because you can tell that these two friends that Amy is trying to find meaning in her life from – well, they certainly don’t feel that same. She is the insecure third wheel who sits by and watches life happen without being an active participant, until she finally decides that maybe she should do something about it all. Amy has frank and meaningful inner dialogue, with some well written phrases, that express her slow growing realization that she has lost herself. Burstein writes the kind of self-revelations that teens write down in their journals and make art from (wait, that’s not just me, is it?)
Pretty Amy isn’t all angst; Burstein injects enough warmth and humor to keep the reader invested. Many of the adults in Amy’s life, including a hippie shrink and a gaseous attorney, are fun to visit. Amy herself has a sarcastic wit. And one of my favorite parts of this novel involves how the book gets its name. The only one who really knows Amy is her bird, A J, who she has taught to say many things, including “pretty Amy.” This bird has brilliant comic timing and can be counted on to interject some humor at just the right moments.
Pretty Amy is a biting, edgy contemporary novel that tells it like it is. It is definitely for mature readers, remember this whole journey begins with a baggie of pot. Like Deanna in Sara Zarr’s fabulous Story of a Girl, Amy slowly claws her way out of a suffocating life to take that big gulp of air that comes when we realize that we are often our own worst enemy and decide to do something about it. Amy may hit rock bottom, but there is a cast of adult characters trying to help her find her way back up. 4 out of 5 stars. Burstein captures the teenage voice and tells Amy’s story with a raw, aching honesty.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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