When I read the blurb on the back of my copy of Flawless, I thought this was going to be a cute, fun read. It didn’t occur to me at the time that the story seemed a little familiar, but a few pages in and I clicked – this is a modern retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac.
Only, it’s not a very good one.
I love modern retellings of fairytales and the like, but Flawless just didn’t do it for me.
Sarah Burke has a huge nose. When a gorgeous new boy joins her school, her best friend Kristen asks Sarah to pretend to be her and write to him, otherwise Rock (yes, that’s his name), will think Kristen is really stupid. And so Sarah agrees, and finds herself falling ever deeper for Rock while determined to stay loyal to Kristen.
The big problem with Flawless was the characters, who were all over the place.
Take Sarah. One minute she’s preening in the mirror and talking about her fabulous hair, the next the only thing she can see is her nose. There is one moment in the book where, when thinking about another boy, she thinks: “We’re both blond, attractive, and have great smiles.” And then she’s back to worrying about her nose again.
She’s confident in her school work, really comfortable standing up for her mum, but on the other hand can’t say no to Kristen or rationally explain why. I get that people have many different facets, but I felt like the only consistency about Sarah was that she was so in love with Rock.
Then we have Kristen, who really didn’t seem like a great friend, despite what Sarah constantly said in the novel. Kristen was manipulative, and worse, really coy and girly with it. She might not have meant to be, but I felt like she was quite devious and I wouldn’t want to be friends with her.
And then there’s Rock, who both girls fell in love with really quickly. Sure, he was gorgeous, and clever, but I never really got a sense of who he was or why he was so dreamy.
As a second storyline, there was Sarah’s relationship with her mum, a famous news anchor in Texas. I hated this right from the start, since the first time we meet Beth Burke is when she’s put a plastic surgery leaflet next to her daughter’s breakfast plate and is trying to tell Sarah to get a nose job. No matter how nice she is for the rest of the book, or how much she tells Sarah that she should be herself, I was completely put off by the fact that a grown woman was trying to persuade her 17-year-old daughter to get a nose job. Plus, a conflict within Sarah’s mum’s life which Chapman spent chapters hinting at was solved within the space of a page, which left me feeling a bit cheated.
Things that did work well in Flawless was the use of modern technology, which brought the Cyrano story right into the 21st century. I also loved the quotes about beauty from famous writers which started each chapter. The cover, with its image of a gorgeous face with no nose, was also striking.
Unfortunately, for me the book just wasn’t a good read. It’s a pity, because Chapman’s writing style is easy to read, but her characters were not.
How I got this book: Picked up from the publisher Bloomsbury.