BEAUTIFUL GIRLS: Stories
Robin is pretty; Dani is lovely; Eve has frizzy hair. Beautiful or not, the protagonists of this debut collection's eight smart, irreverent stories are all sharp and honest enough to recognize their flaws and strengths. Few, however, are content to accept their shortcomings without testing alternate ways of looking or behaving. In "True," 15-year-old Robin has just turned pretty, but realizes that she has a "lousy personality." Determined not to be boring anymore, she decides to try being mean instead—isn't she allowed, now that she's beautiful? The title story centers around 17-year-old cheerleader Dani, who knows she is stunning, but comes to realize that she lacks the certain inner something that makes her best friend, Inggy, gorgeous. "Inggy was the most beautiful girl on the poster, although there was more to it than that." Bauman's wry voice, impish sense of humor and occasional surreal shadings make her portrayals of children particularly pleasing. Allie, the eight-year-old narrator of "The Middle of the Night," is the only child of alcoholic parents. She often finds her father passed out on the lawn and is the only one awake to answer her father's lover's late night calls. In "Stew," homely 14-year-old J.D. is mortified to be babysitting on a Friday night, but throws himself gamely into a game of dressup with the two girls in his charge. Astringent and frequently moving, these stories are seductive showcases for a strong new voice. (Mar. 5)
Forecast:A New York Times profile of Bauman should spark early interest in the book; positive reviews will likely keep the ball rolling.