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Waking Beauty: A Novel [Paperback]

Elyse Friedman
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 22 2004
What would you do if you went to bed ugly, fat, and depressed and woke up the next morning in the body of a goddess?
This is exactly the miracle that befalls Allison Penny, who has spent most of her twenty-two years on this earth in a serious slump (to say the least).

Having long since given up on her life, Allison is stuck in an apartment with an evil sexpot roommate, trapped in a dysfunctional relationship with her alcoholic mother, and miserably working as a cleaning lady to pay the bills. Now, of course, Allison wastes no time in test-driving her new looks, and she experiences all of the power and fun that come with being gorgeous. Men and modeling agencies are falling all over her, and she finally has the con?dence to live her life without trying to disappear into the background. But even for the beautiful people, things can get complicated, and soon Allison finds herself with a whole new set of problems.

Darkly hilarious, engaging, and full of surprises, Waking Beauty is a modern-day fairy tale with an all-too-real moral: No matter how much we hate to admit it, it’s what’s on the outside that counts.

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From Publishers Weekly

Friedman (Then Again) offers up a spunky, spiteful revenge novel about Allison Penny, an ugly 20-something who suddenly wakes up gorgeous—a silly conceit counterbalanced by bulls-eye social commentary and sharply drawn characters. Allison's roommate, Virginie, and her boyfriend, Fraser, have long made Allison's life hell; pretty much everybody is inconsiderate of pretransformation Allison, including her own adoptive mother. Her only friend is Nathan, a video store clerk and aspiring film critic. Early chapters catalogue the injustices of a world in which unattractive people can't get ahead, while later chapters satisfyingly knock down the pins lined up earlier: Allison gets revenge on Virginie, Fraser, her mother and a supporting cast of shop girls, literati and other pretentious types. But she hasn't become beautiful just to get revenge, has she? "Did I have some sort of beauty duty to perform? And if so, what would it be? Posing naked for a PETA billboard? Administering blowjobs to ugly outcasts?" No, but there's a lesson here: "it's what's on the outside that counts." Beautiful Allison gets handsome suitors, job offers—even her mother's affection. But she's kept her sharp, sardonic view of all things superficial, and she still loves homely Nathan. Friedman thumbs her nose at many of the conventions of chick lit, and the nasty bite of her prose offers plenty of guilty pleasure.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Allison Penny, a self-described "troll," is an overweight, unattractive, depressed 22-year-old with a dead-end cleaning job; a disparaging, alcoholic mother; a father who won't acknowledge her; and a roommate who is just plain mean. Her life is on the fast track to nowhere, until one morning, with no explanation, Allison wakes up stunningly beautiful. What's a girl to do but take her new body for a test drive before her luck runs out? It is in this new body that Allison experiences everything she had been missing. In the end she has to learn how to live in the new body and all the problems that come with it, including getting her inner beauty to match her outer beauty. This modern twist on an old fairy tale is funny, sometimes dark, and completely engaging, but the moral is a little pessimistic--it's what's on the outside that counts. But the book's only real flaw lies in a couple of sexual passages that are raw and somewhat out of tone with the rest of the book. Carolyn Kubisz
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
At 7:45 A.M. I awoke to the gaudy ululations of my roommate, Virginie, getting vaginally plumbed by her latest conquest. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lovely Delight May 1 2009
By Jamieson Villeneuve TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Allison Penny has spent most of her twenty two years on this earth a monster. She is overweight, obese, has greasy skin, limp hair and does not like trying on clothes in changing rooms. She is virtually ignored by her alcoholic mother, treated like a freak by almost everyone in her life and has never met her father. In short, Allison Penny is very tired of her less than average life.

However, one magical Saturday morning, Allison wakes up in the body of a Goddess. After fainting and getting over the initial shock, Allison is able to examine her wonderfully perfect body. And perfect it is: she has blond locks, large blue eyes, puffy, pouty lips and gorgeous white teeth. Her buttocks look wonderful, her breasts are perfect and she is a model of perfection. Out with the old Allison, in with the new.

Allison, shocked at her transformation, wonders if she uttered an incantation, took a potion, did something different. After racking her brain, she comes up with nothing but decides to enjoy life to the fullest now that she can get everything she has been denied.

She goes out into the world and is offered a modeling contract almost right away. She meets a man and has sex with him; she goes shopping and even tries on clothes in the store. She begins to realize that beauty is power and now she can get everything she wants. Things are not what they seem. Beautiful people have a set of problems all their own.

Trying to come to grips with her new looks, Allison is able to fool everyone into thinking that the old Allison had to leave suddenly. Now she is like a fly on the wall, listening to what everyone thought of fat, ugly Allison. Armed with her beauty, she is able to get access to a world from which she was previously shut out.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Dec 15 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Catchy title and premise. Colourful writing with funny moments. After the transformation is made, the book becomes somewhat of a fairy tale which made it hard to believe, at times. A fast read that is entertaining. Keen insights on human behaviour and interesting perspective on the relevance of "looks" in our society.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining July 19 2004
By sb-lynn
Format:Paperback
This is the story about an overweight, exceptionally homely woman who wakes up one morning with the body and face of a supermodel.
The story doesn't try to explain how this happened, and for me this wasn't a problem. Once you accept the premise, I felt the author did have some interesting things to say about Beauty, and how powerful a force it is in our culture.
I give this book 4 stars because I thought it was a quick, fun, entertaining read. It's not simply a Revenge book, although it's that. It's also a mirror on how our society works.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Waste of time July 19 2004
Format:Paperback
This book leaves too many questions to be answered. Why did she wake up "perfect"? Why didn't video boy want to be with her until she was beautiful? Why couldn't he see her for what she was? Why do we care? Allison is never likeable; the cast of characters is sad and one-dimensional; there is no real social commentary or insight in any of the poorly written chapters. I enjoy a fluffy fairy tail as much as the next chick but this one is a sad tail and not worthy of the 50-cent bin at Borders.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read but why bother? July 16 2004
Format:Paperback
Even though I read this really quickly and I enjoyed reading it. Allison Penny doesn't seem like a real character to me. Yes, she made me laugh, and I could empathize with her feelings. However, her character did things that didn't seem believable for someone who has felt ugly her whole life. She wakes up beautiful and suddenly has confidence to spare? I think there would still be vestiges of her former hermit-like self there.
Granted this was a modern sort of fairytale but the characters were too caricature like. They didn't have much depth and their behaviors, except for Allison, were too predictable.
It is a quick, easy read but there is something missing.
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