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14 Jan 2013

You Can't Take The Style From Me

Getting back into book reviews I started on one book that I read back in June or July.  One dislike I had about the book was that the titular character had one of those ugly duckling transformations where she ditches the tomboyish clothes and is shown how she looks in lavish dresses.  All of a sudden she realises that she can be beautiful.

I used to read a lot of L.J Smith novels when I was a teen and in the Night World series especially there was a lot of ugly ducklings who realised their beauty.  It seems to happen a lot in YA where a so-called plain Jane girl undergoes makeovers to feel prettier and more confident with their sexuality.  I think reading these girls become beautiful made me feel worse as an insecure teenager because I knew that would never happen to me. 

Give up my 11th Doctor t-shirt? Not in a million years.
I know it can be a teenage fantasy to wish that you can have the makeover from heaven and suddenly find yourself transformed into a glamour model but how come these girls can only find their confidence after their outer appearance has been altered?

I wear make-up and I like it.  I love to get my glad rags on and look presentable for a night out.  But when I was a teenager I liked a bit of eccentricity in my clothes.  During college I came out of my shell and loved wearing my batman hoodie, I liked odd jewellery, and I carried a Beetlejuice bag covered in badges that said ridiculous things.  That was what I liked to wear and I stuck to it until I grew out of some things.  But I would have told someone to eff off if they said I dressed idiotic and hated it when my family told me I should wear dresses and colours.  I had my appearance issues (and still do) but I learnt to be confident through what I wore and what my tastes were.  I still like my geeky t-shirts and nothing can make me change that. 

What about those teenage girls who dress differently? The girls who have geeky t-shirts or like to wear converses or dress tomboyish.  When YA only seems to show that you discover your beauty through a make-over what is it saying to those girls who don't want to dress up to look pretty? I'm sure they look fine with a Firefly quote or a moustache on their t-shirt and they need to know that they don't need to change.  It's not compulsory.  Look presentable sure but I'd like to see more messages in YA telling girls that they're fine in what they already wear and encourage them to revel in their own styles.

Sorry if it turned into a rant. ^^ Any thoughts?


  1. I've read this in a lot of books, as well as seeing it in a ton of movies as well, and I have to agree with you. Why can't the message be that it shouldn't matter what you wear, but what matters is what's on the inside. That doesn't change by putting on a pretty dress and heels. That's one of the things I quite liked about the Princess Diaries series when I first read them as a teen, even though Mia went through this massive transformation to make her 'look like a princess' she hated it and still wore her combat boots and was proud of who she was (even if she did have low self-esteem).

  2. I love the point you've made in this post. I was a geeky teen too, and I was happy with it. I liked standing out in what I wore and having the freedom to wear it. - I would've loved your Beetlejuice purse!

    YA does need to have more female MCs who find confidence in other ways besides makeovers. My female MC Lividia finds hers through accepting who she really is, and learning to play up her strengths.

    The most attractive thing a girl or woman can wear is confidence. The sooner that message gets across to teens the better.

  3. I've always been a misfit, always will be and I've always looked for characters that don't follow the whole "ohmigosh I need to be PRETTY to succeed in life!"

    ...Which is probably why I don't have any books with covers featuring girls in elaborate dresses in my house :P

  4. Let's face it, guys like to look at pretty girls. BUT: a) "pretty" is often in the eye of the beholder (there are few unanimously-agreed-upon "pretty" girls), and most importantly, b) inner beauty affects outward beauty. I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time with a pretty girl who was mean, spiteful, b*tchy, and generally unpleasant. I'd sooner spend time with someone I personally wouldn't call "pretty" but has a delightful character, and is a joy to be around. That kind of personality can actually make someone attractive who otherwise wouldn't get a second look.

    And I agree with you, character transformations that only deal with external appearance are meaningless. Inner change is so much harder, and hence much more interesting to read/write.

    Just my 2c. :)

  5. You know, I actually kind of don't like when a good deal of page time is spent discussing a character's fashion choices. I know what you mean about how so many books have an ugly duckling sort of transformation. I'm kind of 'meh' on that. I'd rather read about a girl who likes what she likes and is comfortable in her own skin. And so much the better if that involves geek tees and Converse shoes. :)