Title: The Lipstick Laws
Author: Amy Holder
Page count: 240
Source: ARC from the publisher, via netGalley
Star rating: 2 of 5
Note: This book has a publication date of April 4, 2011
It’s sophomore year at Penford High School in Rochester, NY, and April Bowers is lonely. Her best friend, Haley, has moved out of town, and April, who has never been popular in her large high school, now feels completely alone. The only person who seems to give her any attention is Delvin McGerk, who she thinks is “stalkeriffic” and the king of all losers. It’s not looking good for April.
Enter Britney Taylor, fellow sophomore, and self-ordained queen of the popular kids. Despite only being in 10th grade, she manages to thinks she has the level of popularity usually reserved for seniors. She has a small group of sycophantic girlfriends who follow her around like lap dogs, and she’s got boys drooling over her body. Britney seems to have it all, so April is confused and flattered when Britney and her friends welcome her to their lunch table.
What follows in the first half of the book is the common ugly duckling story. April, who’s cast in the role of the ugly duckling but isn’t actually ugly at all, gets made over by Britney the puppet master. Britney is the queen of back-handed compliments and never fails to let her feelings be known, no matter how hurtful the insult may be. April’s clothes and hair are changed, and she’s backed into the corner when it comes to signing the Lipstick Oath, a list of seven rules she must agree to follow in order to be friends with Britney and the girls.
There are expected insults, hi-jinks and hurt feelings, and at a ridiculous party in a field, it all changes when somebody calls the cops and April gets blamed. She’s immediately out of the group, and Britney sets out to destroy April’s reputation. (What reputation? April was unknown before Britney came around, and the girls have puffed-up senses of superiority, so how would anybody realize April had changed anyway?)
The first half of the story is interesting and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. The second half, however, tumbles out in a rush, all telling and no showing. It’s a breathless read of “this happened, and then this happened, and then OMG this happened!” It’s like a bad Disney Channel or ABC Family movie which spends the first half setting up the plot nicely, and the second half desperately trying to cram it all in with a nice little lesson in the last five minutes.
April takes revenge on Britney by gathering up other girls who broke the Lipstick Oath. They call themselves the Lipstick Lawbreakers, and they plot and scheme to ruin Britney’s life. One of their tricks, involving fake love letters and a showdown on the football field, is far beyond anything a high-schooler would ever do, and the other is not funny and could be deadly for Britney.
Some of the book’s major plot problems include:
- The character of Brandon is interesting, if not a little gross. He disappears. Why?
- Delvin is clueless but sweet and obviously a catch for a nice girl, and then turns into a “total hottie,” which is all the girls seem to care about. But April still treats him like trash. And we’re supposed to root for her? April and her friends are completely shallow and care nothing about a guy’s intelligence, manners, kindness, or how he treats his mama. If he’s a hottie, he’s in. Gross.
- Totally implausible things, like laughing hysterically or jumping around excitedly for “five minutes straight,” or three people saying exactly the same sentence at exactly the same time. There’s willing suspension of disbelief when you read a fluffy YA novel, and then there’s just bad writing and editing that make you roll your eyes.
The overarching problem with this book is that it’s hard to like a book at all when the main character is so wholly awful and unlikable. There is nothing redeeming about April, and her new-found mean girl status is reversed and wrapped up nicely with a bow in the end. But it’s completely unbelievable. I didn’t root for her for a moment in the whole book. She is everything you wanted to avoid while growing up, and everything you don’t want your children to be now.
I’ve read several reviews saying this is great for young teenagers, but I don’t know how a parent, teacher, or librarian could recommend impressionable young girls (possibly dealing with their own mean girls) read about people who are so mean and awful that the reader is left feeling let-down and miserable by the end of the story. A feel-good ego boost this is not.