Audiobook Review: Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick

Audiobook Review: Gorgeous by Paul RudnickGorgeous by Paul Rudnick
Narrator: Elizabeth Morton
Length: 12 hrs
Published by Scholastic Audio on April 30, 2013
Genres: Fairy Tales, Humor, Paranormal, Retelling, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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three-stars

Inner beauty wants out.

When eighteen-year-old Becky Randle’s mother dies, she’s summoned from her Missouri trailer park to meet Tom Kelly, the world’s top designer. He makes her an impossible offer: He’ll create three dresses to transform Becky from a nothing special girl into the most beautiful woman who ever lived.

Becky thinks Tom is a lunatic, or that he’s producing a hidden camera show called World’s Most Gullible Poor People. But she accepts, and she’s remade as Rebecca. When Becky looks in the mirror, she sees herself – an awkward mess of split ends and cankles. But when anyone else looks at Becky, they see pure five-alarm hotness.

Soon Rebecca is on the cover of Vogue, the new Hollywood darling, and dating celebrities. Then Becky meets Prince Gregory, heir to the British throne, and everything starts to crumble. Because Rebecca aside, Becky loves him. But to love her back, Gregory would have to look past the blinding Rebecca to see the real girl inside. And Becky knows there’s not enough magic in the world.

A screamingly defiant, hugely naughty, and impossibly fun free fall past the cat walks, the red carpets, and even the halls of Buckingham Palace, Gorgeous does the impossible: It makes you see yourself clearly for the first time.

Full disclosure: As I write this (December 4, 2013), I’m on the couch with my laptop on my stomach and trying to move as little as possible because that makes pain happen and also on some cold meds. This review may make no sense. Then again, this book also often didn’t make any damn sense. However, I thought you should be warned that my rambles may be ramblier and even more nonsensical than on a regular day.

I really do not know how to feel about Gorgeous. Mostly I felt sort of meh about it, but sometimes it made me laugh and sometimes I wanted to punch it in the book-face, and then at the end I suddenly couldn’t stop listening to it. So it was something all right. There are some things that went really well and a lot of weirdness to the max and some jokes that immediately do the most awkward and yet somehow unfunny faceplant. I don’t know how the faceplant wasn’t funny either, but Gorgeous managed that several times.

Gorgeous retells Cinderella, but plays pretty fast and loose with the source material. That’s not really a bad thing, considering that there are a million bajillion retellings of Cinderella. Reading Gorgeous definitely doesn’t cause flashbacks to every other retelling, so that’s a big plus. Rudnick did a mixed job with his adaptation, with some elements really cool twists and others a little bit off. For example, I thought having designer Tom Kelly as Becky’s “fairy godmother” was pretty funny, even if Tom remained a relatively flat character to the end. I also liked that the plot was structured around Becky’s three dresses, which hearkens back to the Grimm’s Cinderella. The Disney Cinderella is all mixed in with the godmother and the discussion about a glass slipper, which is not a thing in the original. A lot of the traditional trappings (helpful animals, evil stepmother and sisters, prince searching with a shoe) are gone, but it’s definitely identifiable as Cinderella.

Paul Rudnick actually does a really marvelous job writing a female heroine. Becky is an entirely realistic girl, though not fitting the standard heroine mode at all, because then she wouldn’t have needed the magical makeover. I’m still not sure how much I actually like Becky though. She’s interesting and sometimes funny, but was also occasionally incredibly annoying or exasperating. I do like the addition of a best friend character to this Cinderella story, and the fact that Rocher (named for the chocolate) and Becky seem like true blue forever friends. Becky isn’t ashamed of Rocher or too good for her when she turns into Rebecca, the most beautiful woman in the world, and Becky’s never jealous. After so many backstabbing frenemies, it’s a really nice, healthy friendship. At the same time, I found Rocher pretty much consistently annoying, like Becky on amplifiers. I particularly hated when either of them would start swearing like sailors, even though I actually like cursing. Something about the way they put their swears together was seriously offputting.

The messages seemed a bit mixed, with the broader message being one of tolerance and personality over appearance, but occasionally venturing into easy stereotype jokes I found rather offensive. The example that comes easily to my fuzzy brain is when Rebecca meets some other models, who are all vapid airheads. What clever satire! Stupid models. Hahahaha! I’ve never heard that super unique joke before! In fact, pretty people in general do not come through this book particularly well. Anyone who’s completely gorgeous, except for Rebecca, is shown to be rather idiotic, even Jate, Becky’s teen idol and Rebecca’s friend.

However, I do love the larger message. For example, I’m really glad that Becky’s mother, who died weighing 400 pounds at the outset of the book was not made into a figure of mockery for her weight. Obviously, she wasn’t healthy, but she wasn’t judged off of just that. She’s still shown to be a really nice, interesting person, and it’s not all yo mama so fat jokes. Similarly, I like the way the romance between Prince Gregory and Rebecca/Becky is handled. Rudnick establishes this really convincingly, completely ridiculous scenario aside, showing the way that their personalities are compatible more than anything. Also, I liked that Gregory was a bit of a goober, and not the incredibly gorgeous swoony prince.

The audiobook’s pretty good. I think the narrator does, minus one point, a good job with the voices and capturing the tone of the novel and the feel of Becky’s character. However, Morton gives Becky pretty close to the basic American accent, rather than the southern twang exhibited, in varying degrees, by her interpretations of Rocher and Becky’s mother, Roberta. While I’m grateful not to have had to listen to that accent for twelve hours, it doesn’t make sense for Becky to not have the accent everyone else in her town had, except maybe that she was reflecting back? Did her years in England turn her Missouri accent into a more generic American one? I sort of doubt it.

Thus, I’m at a bit of a loss. It was good and frustrating and fascinating and not funny and hilarious and weird as all get out. I recommend this for readers who appreciate really outlandish humor.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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