For a book about an aspiring comedian, Pretty Funny for a Girl is pretty heartbreaking. And that may just be the point.
Haylah Swinton has a lot going on. She eats, sleeps, and dreams comedy, she helps her single mom take care of her four year old brother, she navigates the pressures of high school with her two best friends, and oh yeah, she’s fat. However, whether she believes it herself or not, Haylah’s weight isn’t the most significant thing about her. She is smart and very, very funny. When the kids at her elementary school make fun of her weight, she owns it, and ends up with the nickname “Pig” as a result.
“Now I’m just used to the name. I don’t mind it. Not really. At least it’s a punchline I wrote.”
At her school’s talent show, Haylah is astonished to find that handsome, popular, two-years-older Leo is another aspiring comic. What ensues is kind of a Comic Cyrano de Bergerac set-up. Fat Haylah writes jokes for good-looking Leo, who hopes to win a big comedy contest, and along the way, Haylah falls for him, with predictable results.
Haylah feels like a fresh heroine, and the reader, at least this reader, couldn’t help but root for her. She’s frequently laugh-out-loud funny, and her interactions with her family and her friends ring true. Admittedly, I’m not the target audience, but I found the romance between Haylah and Leo less interesting, than the family dynamic between Haylah, her mom, and her little brother.
Scarred when her absentee father abandoned their family, Haylah tries to thwart her mom’s burgeoning romance with a coworker. And Haylah often feels left behind by her two best friends, who have more typical teenage girl interests than comedy. All of these relationships contribute to a pretty authentic “who am I and where do I fit in” narrative that teens will relate to.
One little critique – Haylah describes herself as fat, and frankly, refreshingly, she isn’t too bothered by it. It’s a little disappointing that by the end of the book, and mostly due to male feedback, she thinks of herself as “curvy.” Kind of a sad trombone for the body positivity the book started out with.
Pretty Funny for a Girl
Author: Rebecca Elliott
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More books for this Age Group can be found here.
My thanks to Peachtree Publishing for providing a Review Copy of this book. All opinions provided herein are my own.
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