Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pretty by Jillian Lauren

As I lie here in a Best Western motel in Sonora Texas with the faux luxury bedspread of polyester chaffing my arms, I feel emotional and vulnerable and incredibly fortunate. I don’t know if these high-pitched feelings are because I just read on Facebook that a friend loves my youngest son too (a son that needs lots of love) or if it is because Jillian Lauren just slayed the shit out of me with her book Pretty, but tears are pouring down my face and it’s all good.

Shortly after receiving Pretty from the Penguin Group (they occasionally send me free books), I received an email from Milena Brown, Associate Publicist at Penguin, asking if I planned on reviewing the book and letting me know that Pretty author Jillian Lauren would be at the October Texas Book Festival. I emailed her back saying that I knew I was loving Pretty because I kept looking at the photo of author Jillian Lauren in the back of the book, as if there were a code hidden in the contours of her face .

Pretty is the story of Bebe, a 20-something wreck of a girl who survives a drug-fueled car wreck that kills her looser, yet pretty jazz musician boyfriend, Aaron. She is cleverly described on the book’s cover as an ex-everything: Ex-stripper, ex-Christian, ex-drug addict, ex-pretty girl, so I was primed right off the bat to dislike her. And I was pretty successful at disliking her for about the first 100 pages, but Bebe (or should I say Jillian Lauren with her relentless humanity) wore me down. Dang, I hate it when people burst my superiority illusion.

In Pretty, Bebe, who is living in a half-way house in LA and attending cosmetology school, limps through the final 72 hours of beauty school wrestling with the demons of her past, the psychosis of her man choices, and a bevy of interesting friends. If it weren’t for Lauren’s writing, by page 180 I would have just blurted out, “Good gawd woman, get a grip!” and thrown the book across the room. But in the context of Lauren’s poetry, I couldn’t put the book down let alone toss it. Here are a few random goose-bump-inducing examples: 
Regret perches like an umbrella over all my days.

Jake is my right now but Aaron is my always.

Billy was famous, or whatever that means if you’re a jazz musician, but still. He was.

I drop his overcoat on the tar ground before I walk into the stairwell…I don’t bother running. They never follow.

When Bebe feels life spiraling out of control, she tethers herself to sanity by randomly identifying Jesus in the things around her, mumbling:
Jesus is in the slow sparkles of the water.
Jesus is in the cracks in the ceiling.
Jesus is in the polish on my nails.
Close to the end of Pretty, as I frantically whipped page to page, agonizing for Bebe to gain traction in her life, I mumbled, Jesus is in Jillian Lauren soul.  I am pretty sure that I’ll be buying her other book Some Girls: My Life In A Harem.

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