I've heard a lot of buzz surrounding Dhonielle Clayton's new novel, The Belles. And although I'm not a big fan of the dystopian genre, the book's pretty cover made it hard to pass up. And at least it wasn't one of those "OMG! The World is Ending" kind of dystopians. So I gave it a read. And although it didn't match the hype for me, it was entertaining enough for me to keep going.
Imagine being able to magically transform the color of your skin, the texture of your hair, and pretty much everything else about your appearance that makes you a unique individual. Imagine being able to change all that at whim. Whenever you want. And no, I'm not talking about popping over to Walgreen's and picking up a box of hair dye, a tube of bronzer, and a palate of eye shadow from Cover Girl's spring line. Although "beauty" would be so much more affordable to the characters in this book if this were an option. Guess they don't have Walgreen's in the Kingdom of Orleans. Pity. Because that would be an excellent way to cheat the system.
In the Kingdom of Orleans, all people are born devoid of color (are they albinos? not sure.). And the only way they can become "beautiful" is to be worked on by The Belles, a magical race who can transform anything and anyone, no matter how hideous, into something gorgeous. At a cost, of course. At this rate, only the most elite can afford to be pretty.
The story centers on Camellia, one particular Belle who hopes to become the Belle who works on keeping the royal family looking their best. This is obviously a huge honor, and only the best of the best are chosen for this duty. The competition is stiff and the reward promises to be great. But much like those reality shows about wannabe supermodels and bachelorettes, being the Next Top Belle isn't all roses and gourmet chocolate. Plus there are the cat fights, pettiness, tears from those not chosen, and warnings about being careful what you wish for. Obviously you should always be careful what you wish for. Especially in these stories.
Although this whole book read like the script for a reality TV show, and although it was just as predictable, it was an interesting commentary about beauty and beauty's role in the world. About how some people will pay any price, endure any pain, in order to meet society's standards of what is "beautiful."
Fans of Kiera Cass' Selection series will enjoy this one. --AJB