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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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Product Description

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
4.0 out of 5 stars A modern fairy tale July 12 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Instead of a rags-to-riches Cinderella story in which a poor girl becomes a princess, Elyse Friedman gives us a beast-to-beauty story in which the altogether uncomely 22-year-old Allison Penny wakes up one morning to find she is suddenly beautiful - and instantly a whole new world of fortune, fame, and love is available to her. The story is complete with a wicked "stepmother" in her adoptive mother and "stepsister" in her roommate. As in some other stories with a similar premise, Allison's first reaction to her astonishing transformation is to take revenge against those who denied her love and friendship because of her previously unlovely appearance. But beyond that, does Allison eventually decide that it's what's inside that counts? What I like about this book is that it doesn't "grow" the character in that obvious direction. Elyse Friedman isn't trying to kid us that what's outside doesn't count...a lot. Allison learns something else. You may be more likely to enjoy this book if you consider yourself one of the beauty-challenged.
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5.0 out of 5 stars far, far, above average! July 2 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book is infinitely better than your average chick lit. Elyse Friedman is one of the sharpest, funniest, most observant writers I've read in a long time. The story of her heroine, Allison, could just be turned into a fairytale or wish-fullfillment fantasy, but it winds up being an extremely funny and edgy romp, laced with a lot of black humor and razor-sharp observations about men, women and society. Some of the scenes with Allison's evil roommate, Virginie, or the smoothly handsome suitor George (a Prince Charming who turns out to have some weird sexual proclivities) are worth the price of the book alone.
This will definitely appeal to the Bridget Jones crowd, but it's Bridget Jones with a bite that Bridget never had, and it's far sexier and funnier. This is one of those rare novels that's really worth your money. Read it and enjoy.
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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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3.0 out of 5 stars I laughed, I cried June 29 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I enjoyed this book (except for a few of the sex words--but I think that's because I'm in my 40's). As an overweight woman, I could really relate to some of the painful experiences Allison had. I would have liked to know the secret behind the change in her appearance but there's probably nothing that would have made any sense, so you just suspend disbelief. No matter how often we hear that it's inside beauty that counts, we all know that's never enough. But if Allison had not been a bright, funny, and good person, she would not have found happiness either.
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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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