Pretty Amy is the debut novel of Lisa Burstein. It follows the saga of Amy Fleishman, age seventeen, and opens on what is one of the most significant days of her life: the senior prom. It becomes significant for more ways than one. Amy is a insecure girl who depends on her more popular friends, Lila and Cassie to validate her, make her feel she’s worth something, that she’s even alive. When the girls get stood up for the prom, they make a woeful decision that leads to them getting arrested and facing real jail time. It’s a life-defining moment that ultimately forces Amy to explore and confront who she is and who she wants to be.
Lisa Burstein dares to write a young adult story with a female protagonist that minimizes the romance and gives major focus to the character’s focus on finding herself and understanding who that self is. It’s a true coming-of-age story. Amy is a real character, real in all her flaws and often maddening decisions. Adults will want to scream at her for the choices she makes and young people may see themselves doing the same things and realizing how foolish it is—now that it’s someone else.
The author successfully creates a character that displays the desires and the even greater fears and confusion of a teenager, those crazy moments when they’re a mass of confusion and hormones and whatever else happens to meander by.
Amy often has a keen sense of the adults around her. There’s a lot of wonderful snark that will make you laugh out loud. This is the first time I'm including quotes, but these gave me a good chuckle. Check it out:
"You could at least be grateful this whole prayer circle is for you," Conner said between bites of his sandwich.
"I'm Jewish, Conner," I reminded him again, in case he'd forgotten.
"Well, he said, wiping his mouth, "look where that has gotten you."
My mother, who was an image Jew, which is a Jew who only cares as much about her Judaism as the person she is trying to prove it to, was sending me to the feet of Jesus for help. She must truly have run out of options.
Ya gotta love it :-)
Pretty Amy makes a great selection for the school market. It’s a story that allows young people to debate the actions and motivations of the characters. It opens up questions on a number of levels that they can delve into and learn about themselves in the process.