Harperteen, Apr 2008, $16.99
Sixteen years old Hayley detests life in Southern California as she is not the model of the Beach Boys being thirty pounds overweight or as she prefers to think of it as six inches too short. Her mom is always on her case over her bowling ball belly, but worse she gives her a digital scale that will not lie; thus every morning the thug inside that scale disses Hayley. The worst insult is being told she has a PRETTY FACE, which is a kind slur implying she is fat. She likes Drew Wyler, but on D-Day at the movies she learns he likes her BFF Jackie. Hayley hides hurts like that one with humor.
Her parents heeding the advice of her therapist send Hayley to Umbria, Italy where her mom’s friend Patrice, don’t call her Patty any longer, lives. Hayley is excited to escape summer torture where she is a beached whale. In Italy she eats real pizza without guilt and enjoys her own cottage and the local males lining up to meet her. She even falls in love with a teen who calls her his “bella facia” as he thinks she is the PERFECT GIRL for him even if she lives an ocean and content away.
Haley is an amusing lead protagonist whose commentaries question the American image that thin is in but at fast food places. She is a terrific character who uses humor to conceal her distress. Although her adjustment from unwanted “social abstinence” to the bella of the ball seems too easy, young teen readers will her turning into a social butterfly.