Violet by Design is Melissa Walker‘s second book about small-town-girl-turned-supermodel Violet Greenfield, and it’s just as great as Violet on the Runway. In this book, Violet has decided to return to the modeling business and she’s off to work the Sao Paolo runways. That’s right–Brazil! Violet is on her way to becoming an international star.

Of course, there was a reason she left it behind before. Modeling certainly has its ups and downs. Sure, she gets to travel to exotic places–but she also gets called “la gordita” (little fat girl) for not being afraid to gain five pounds and be normal-girl-skinny instead of anorexic-looking.  She’s in the tabloids, and anything she says can and will be used against her. Is the life of an international supermodel really worth leaving all of her friends and family at home behind to deal with so much pressure and superficiality?

On top of all of that, she’s got the typical teenage girl worries about her future, her romantic prospects, her friends, staying true to herself, and, like any recent high school graduate, balancing new with old. What’s a girl to do?

Yes, this is a book about modeling. But, as with Melissa Walker’s debut novel, it’s about so much more than that! It’s about life and friends and family and romance and knowing who you are and blindly feeling your way through an uncertain future the way we all do at some point.

As you can probably guess, I was pretty disgusted with the way already-super-skinny  Violet was always being pressured to lose five pounds, but that doesn’t detract from this book because Melissa Walker knows what she’s talking about when she writes about the fashion industry, and I do believe this is true-to-life. It’s not the book that horrifies me; it’s the truth of it, of the fashion industry, of that horrible negative body image that so many girls get from it. It’s relatively minor here–five pounds. But many girls are dozens or hundreds of pounds above the “ideal” weight in the fashion industry, and there’s nothing wrong with those girls. There is, however, something wrong with the fashion industry.

PSA over for the moment. Violet by Design  is an honest, funny, thoughtful, and intelligent book about one girl’s struggle to figure out who she is and stay true to herself despite the temptations to be someone else (like international superstardom and money and free stuff and exotic travel in this case, but there can be so many things that threaten us in that way).  I love Melissa Walker’s characters, and she is quite a talented writer. I can’t wait for the third book in the series, Violet in Private.

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I really need to remember to actually save my work. I had a complete review of You Know Where To Find Me last night, but I lost it when my computer crashed. Grr. Very annoying. So here is my re-written review:

Before picking up this book, I already knew that Rachel Cohn was an amazing, brilliant, and very talented author. You Know Where To Find Me, is, however, not much like her other books (it’s much more serious and depressing, but not in a bad way), so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I was seriously impressed with how wonderfully she pulled it off. You Know Where To Find Me is by no means a light read. At the end of the first chapter, one of the main characters, Laura, commits suicide. Laura and Miles were biological cousins, but they grew up more like sisters in a wealthy part of Washington, DC. They were very different, though, superficially; Laura was thin and pretty and popular and smart and rich (Miles is, in her opinion, none of these things). She had tons of friends and an acceptance to Georgetown (Miles is a year behind in school, and has only one friend). But Laura had at least one vice–she and Miles used to get high together in their old treehouse.

Now, Miles’s whole world is falling apart, and she’s spiralling dangerously downward. She is fat and ugly and alone and, after Laura dies, all she wants to do is get high. Apparently, Laura’s pill popping and then suicide didn’t deter Miles in the least.

Miles isn’t really as alone as she thinks, though. She’s got her best friend, Jamal, and his family, Laura’s father, Jim, her often-absent father, Buddy, and maybe even an old friend of Laura’s. She’s got lots of people to count on, if only she can realize it.

I adored this book. It is wonderfully written, powerfully moving and emotional story. It’s full of interesting, well-drawn characters. Miles in particular is a great character and a fantastic narrator. Her voice and character are fresh and distinctive and honest and real.   I quite enjoyed the DC setting of this book, too. This is an engaging novel that fans of Rachel Cohn’s previous books will love because even though it’s different, it’s just as wonderful as the others! Anyone who hasn’t read her previous books will soon become a fan after reading this novel.

You Know Where To Find Me is a book about loss and grief and suicide and depression and drug abuse and family and love and friendship and life (and DC statehood, which is a very interesting political issue I’d never actually thought much about). Yes, by definition, there’s a lot of sadness in a book that starts with suicide, but, ultimately, it felt like a hopeful book to me.

Looks is Madeleine George’s debut novel, and wow, is it impressive. It’s a gorgeously written story about two girls, Aimee and Meghan. Meghan is very, very fat–but also very invisible. No one sees her (with the exception of a pack of boys who enjoy tormenting her). Aimee is very, very, painfully thin. While Meghan eats for comfort, Aimee feels much better when she doesn’t let food even touch her.

Aimee is a gifted poet, and the book itself is somehow poetic. Not only does Aimee see Meghan, but she also writes a poem about her. Unlike everyone else, Aimee looks at rather than through Meghan. Meghan sees Aimee, too, but that’s not surprising; Meghan sees everything and everyone. She’s very, very observant. People spill their secrets in front of her; it’s like she’s not even real. Meghan knows everything there is to know about everyone in her school, and what a cast of characters it is!

Meghan feels some sort of connection with Aimee that she doesn’t feel with other people, despite not even speaking to her. Like maybe, even though they are on the outside so different, she and Aimee are the same on the inside.

Looks is an eloquent, touching, intelligent, and (at times painfully) honest novel that will certainly captivate readers. Aimee and Meghan are certainly real characters, but the beauty of the writing is what really stood out to me while reading this book. Madeleine George is an incredibly talented and brilliant writer; her book is truly breathtaking. It is smart and observant and lyrical and just so many wonderful things I can’t possibly describe it well enough. Looks comes out in June, but I suggest you go ahead and preorder your copy now; you won’t want to miss this.