“Pretty Amy is a coming-of-age story without the comfort of padding.”
Pretty Amy is Lisa Burstein’s debut novel tracing the saga of Amy Fleishman, age seventeen.
The book opens on what is one of the most significant days of Amy’s 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 ultimately forcing 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 focusing instead on the character’s psychological underpinnings and true motivation to find herself and understand who that self is.
Pretty Amy is a coming-of-age story without the comfort of padding. Amy is a real character, relatable in all her flaws and often maddening decisions. Adults will want to scream at her for the choices she makes, but young people—the target audience—may see themselves taking the same approach and realizing how foolish it is—since it’s someone else doing it.
The author successfully creates a relatable and compelling character, placing appropriate emphasis on the desires, confusion, and even greater fears of teenagers without diminishing their import for that target audience.
Conversely and interestingly, Amy often has a keen sense of the adults around her. There’s a lot of wonderful snark that will make grownups laugh out loud.
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 without getting bored in the process, providing an opportunity to delve into the book—and learn about themselves in the process.