Author: Jen Calonita
Publish Date: April 10, 2012
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Fifteen-year-old Isabelle Scott loves her life by the boardwalk on the supposed wrong side of the tracks in North Carolina. But when tragedy strikes, a social worker sends her to live with a long-lost uncle and his preppy privileged family.Isabelle is taken away from everything she’s ever known, and, unfortunately, inserting her into the glamorous lifestyle of Emerald Cove doesn’t go so well. Her cousin Mirabelle Monroe isn’t thrilled to share her life with an outsider, and, in addition to dealing with all the rumors and backstabbing that lurk beneath their classmates’ Southern charm, a secret is unfolding that will change both girls’ lives forever.
Izzie’s life has been far from easy. She’s had to care for her grandmother for a long time, and she bears a burden far greater than girls her age should carry. Nevertheless, life is a far cry from what she’s about to be plunged into. When a social worker sends her to live with a well-to-do distant relative, Lizzie’s world is turned upside down…in the best possible way. When Izzie’s world becomes one of wealth and prestige, a private school and a glamorous home life with a glitzy cousin, Mira though, it might be a bit too much for her. Can she hack it in this new world, or will her place remain in her roots?
In a world where a lot of YA novels take themselves far too seriously and dark/depressing is the new happy, Belles by Jen Calonita takes a new high ground. Funny and sweet, endearing and unapologetic, this drama and tension-filled story takes a simpler approach to the young adult world. It’s a rags-to-riches sort of tale that takes the immediate clichéd notions and spins them into something for more entertaining. Think – Cinderella meets She’s the Man. Peppered with seriousness but alive with lighthearted, feel-good humour and storytelling, Belles is a real treat.
Guys, there are so many things about Belles that I should have hated simply based on my preconceived notions, my qualms with melodrama and more. However, there was something about the story that was just so charming that I found myself completely engulfed in the story. Izzie was a delightful MC. She was honest and true, and I found that her character had a starkness about her that bolstered her internal strength. Mira was carefully crafted as her antithesis. She was very much a follower, and her personality was very weak. Having been raised in a wealthy household, Mira doesn’t truly think for herself, and I found her to be a bit off-putting, which was actually effective because it made me like Izzie even more. Told in alternating perspectives, Belles featured smooth, seamless transitions, though I’ll say I far preferred Izzie’s chapters to Mira’s. Best of all, however, was the fact that the novel was genuine and heartfelt. With just enough drama and touches of romance, Belles whetted my appetite for a sweet read that wasn’t too heavy and wasn’t too boring.
Overall, I was surprised that I really enjoyed Belles. Usually not my cup of tea, it definitely bested my misconceptions. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction with lighthearted romance.