The Real Us

illus. by J.P. Coovert. 256p. Roaring Brook. Aug. 2017. Tr 16.99. ISBN 9781626721715.
Gr 5–8—In this quirky novel of self-actualiztion, Calista, a popular girl, is faced with the tragedy of all tragedies: a zit. As she slowly falls from grace, her old best friend, a chubby, sarcastic jock named Laura, tries to lift her spirits back up, all while Damian, a sweaty artist, nurses a crush on Calista. Greenwald attempts to demonstrate that it's what is on the inside that matters, and the prologue sets readers up for a realistic depiction of the harmful nature of emphasizing looks above everything else. However, the narrative, told from the alternating points of view of the three characters, loses its way and fails to develop any of their stories in a satisfactory way. The ending feels unearned and forced, leaving the impression that once the book is closed, everything will just go back to normal for the characters. There is also a brief love triangle that doesn't see a resolution. The same premise is executed in Emily Howse's Zitface with a much smoother result.
VERDICT An additional purchase for large collections serving readers who love realistic school fiction.

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