Beauty Cookson is a smart young girl who is bullied, both at home and at school. Her peers nickname her Ugly, and her father berates her about her lack of looks, confidence and friends. He does not treat her mother that much better. After a particularly disasterous birthday, Beauty and her mother escape to the seaside to start a new life.
Considering the last book I read by Jacqueline Wilson (Lily Alone
) was merely lukewarm, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this particular offering. Despite the dark themes of bullying and spousal/child abuse (Beauty's father is both emotionally and psychologically abusive), this story is full of warm fuzzies. And I'm not just talking about the rabbits.
Beauty was an interesting, three-dimensional character; a smart, quiet girl who enjoys art and a children's show called 'The Rabbit Hutch'. I liked that the show proved to be so important to the plot, as I thought at first it was just an odd little quirk of Beauty's.
I also feel that the character of Beauty's father was particularly well portrayed. He obviously felt a certain amount of love and affection for his daughter and wife, and wasn't only
a villain. However, he was capable of some truly awful things. It was nice to see a character in a younger child's book rendered in many different shades of grey.
I am glad that the ending was more satisfying this time, though it was still open-ended (in a good way).
The best thing about this book is that it is not just Beauty that grows as a character - her mother grows too. I feel that this is something of a rarity in children's literature and, as such, it was one of my favourite parts of the novel.
Overall, I'd recommend anyone who is or who used to be a Jacqueline Wilson fan to pick this book up and read it. It held a sprinkle of the old magic that used to make me reread her again and again. :)