A Little Change of Face Paperback – Jul 1 2005
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Scarlett Jane Stein has always turned men's heads. With her long, black hair and perfect breasts, she draws attention wherever she goes. But an adult case of the chicken pox and the words of her envious friend Pam make Scarlett start to wonder if her looks, not her personality, are the only reason men like her. So Scarlett opts for a "makeunder," cutting off her long hair and dressing in dowdy clothing. Determined to truly reinvent herself, Scarlett quits her job at the Danbury Library, changes her name to Lettie Shaw, and gets herself hired at the smaller Bethel Library. She sets her sights on Saul, a handsome investment adviser she meets in a bar who, sure enough, just wants to be friends, that is, until Scarlett defrumps at a Halloween party. But one of the library's patrons--Steve Holt, a window painter--seems to be taking to Lettie just as she is. Baratz-Logsted offers a clever twist on makeover fiction. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
September 22, 2005
Amazon Rating: 4/5 stars
In A LITTLE CHANGE OF FACE by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, a woman decides to change her image from a beauty to a plain Jane, to see if she can attract a man not for her looks, but for what is inside.
This was my introduction to Baratz-Logsted's books, and I have to say I enjoyed this one. A LITTLE CHANGE OF FACE is not your typical chick lit novel. The premise is a bit off the wall, but I feel that the author made it work. Scarlett Jane Stein has always been known for her good looks and great body, but she's tired of being judged by her appearances. She decides it's time to make a change, so she goes from beautiful to plain Jane, even changing her job and moving to a new town to complete the process.
As Lettie Shaw, she is now a dowdy old maid, and she is no longer attracting the people she did in the past when she was a beauty. With the help of her `default' best friend Pam, Lettie is as plain as can be.
Scarlett (Lettie) finds out what it's like to live like the other half - to have to make an impression on other people without having to use her body. But she also learns a bit about friendship and people through this experiment. This was chick lit with a little bit more, and A LITTLE CHANGE OF FACE may be a book that not everyone will "get", but I felt it was a well-written book, very witty and funny, and will be reading the rest of Lauren's books in the near future.
The first problem with all this is that there's no antithesis. Nobody ever really believes - nobody ever even argues, and I can't think of any reason why they should - that men will *not* stop constantly hitting on Scarlett, and buying her drinks in bars and asking her out under no provocation, if she cuts her hair very short, wears ugly glasses, and dons long, baggy dresses to hide her gorgeous figure. From the beginning, the novel conflates this sort of empty and surface-oriented attention with the (generally) deeper regard signified by friendship and real romantic interest. Even Scarlett seems to have no opinon at all on the subject; she seems barely notice the attention she receives, and she has no boyfriend or close male friend at the start of the novel to give another perspective.
So Scarlett goes through a sort of reverse physical blossoming. In the process she changes her name to Lettie, sabotages her career by moving to a lower-level position in a different town, and gives up her condominium to rent a less showy home. She decides to revise not only her appearance but her entire personality, remaking herself as the self-effacing, unglamorous person she imagines a dowdy, bespectacled Lettie would be. This explicit assumption that a less beautiful woman would be less outgoing and sociable is a circular proof of the hypothesis that as an average-looking woman Scarlett will receive less notice. She goes through the usual contortions of trying to attract the most gorgeous and shallow of the men she meets and - in a bit of poetic justice apparently unnoticed by its recipient - manages to develop, for the first time, a personality not based on long hair and big breasts.
Whatever "A Little Change of Face" is supposed to be, it fails. Its agenda - which is both overworked and unpleasant - hampers its enjoyability as fluff. But its desire to be fluff (in accordance with its Red Dress Ink label) hinders its ability to be interesting in any other way. This is really too bad, as the author is obviously talented. She manages to turn a shell of a plot and a few barely-there characters into a marginally pleasant, absorbing three-hundred page book. And she has certainly tapped into some interesting questions of style versus substance, how much of who we are is influenced by how we look, and the importance of physicality to self-concept and our interactions with friends, coworkers, and lovers. Few novels manage to wrestle successfully with this issue, though, and most of them are much more complex than this immature anti-Cinderella tale.
I get what the author tries to do with this book. I can appreciate how different this is from cookie-cutter chick-lits out there. Most of the characters aren't very likable (especially Pam. What a petty, jealous person! And how on earth did Scarlett not see through her?), including the heroine, whom I had a hard time identifying with for most of the novel. The only thing she and I have in common is that we love books... and that we're both vertically challenged (I, too, am only five feet tall)... and we're brown-eyed brunettes... and the breasts thing rings a bell. Okay, okay, so we do have a few things in common, but the similarities end there. I appreciate her personality flaws and the fact that she cannot see what is so patently obvious. We've all been there at some point in our lives. The thing is that I liked the premise, appreciated the message, but disliked the execution. I couldn't get into this novel, which is a shame, for Lauren Baratz-Logsted is a talented writer. I LOVED her novel Vertigo and I really wanted to love this one too. Alas, I didn't. One of the chapters starts out with something along the lines of, "I bet you're dying to know about my breasts." Uh, no! Have lunch with one of your friends and have her talk to you about her breasts and see how fun that is. Only men would find the aforementioned topic interesting. Anyway, I bought How Nancy Drew Saved My Life and I have my fingers crossed, hoping that book will be better than this one.