"He is someone who finds you attractive," Madame said as if she had never said anything more serious in her life. "Be humble, and be grateful to anyone who pays you a compliment." Her tone was so ominous that for a second I thought she was quoting the Old Testament.
The strange part is that she was somehow right. Her I was -- whining about being rejected -- and then, when some guy paid attention to me, I felt entitled to dismiss him. I realized that I was wrong, but I still tried to defend myself by beating on a dead horse: my self-esteem.
"I guess I'm not used to hearing too many compliments."
She looked me in the eye and added, "I'm sure you get many compliments. You just don't know how to listen."
-pp. 70-71, ARC version
B would prefer not to be named Beauty. She's known she was fat since her parents left her with a terrible nanny, and she'd prefer not to have the name to live up to. She can't get ahead in her job because of her looks and she feels terrible when she hangs out with her skinny and confident best friend Lillian. B's unhappy and desperate when she meets Madame.
And Madame thinks B would be perfect for her clients. She's a confident woman, ready to show B how gorgeous she is and how to find the men who will appreciate her figure. B doesn't want to be a whore, especially with her Catholic guilt, but Madame promises no sex . . .
Which leads into: B AS IN BEAUTY is not a YA book. If you're cool with fetishes, you're probably old enough. If you're thinking, "What's a fetish?" or "That's the thing with feet, right?" you might want to wait a bit before picking this one up. I don't want to be held responsible for exposing the kiddies to Fetish Fuel. (Link may be NSFW.)
For those who are old enough, it's an excellent novel. The romance is well done and touching. For those who have read it, you know what I mean when I say I think I'm going to find subway seats poignant from now on. (Bus seats in my case, since there aren't any subways near.) B's career in advertising and her career as a comfort provider are both given a reasonable amount of attention and I enjoyed how Alberto Ferreras resolved things.
B works excellently as an overweight and Latina character without being defined by those things. Being Cuban American shaped her life and her descriptions of home life really pop, but that doesn't define her. (I did enjoy trying to translate the Spanish before I reached the English paraphrase.) I found her very relatable, especially as her work descriptions reminded me of some of my mom's complaints.
Body image isn't just a problem for teenage girls, as shown by the number of adults who are participating in the Body Image Challenge. We need more women like B in art - women who know, or learn, they are beautiful without losing a pound. (Not saying anyone needs to stay at an unhealthy weight, but our society has such a distorted perception of what weight is healthy.) Believe me, I could enjoy the movie version of Bridget Jones's Diary far more if people just acknowledged that Renee Zellwegger looks awesome, not chubby. B is a breath of fresh air, and it helps that she's in a wonderfully written and entertaining novel.
You can find more at Alberto Ferrera's website. B AS IN BEAUTY is his debut novel and available now. He is a filmmaker and performance artist in addition to being an author. I'm posting the book trailer because I think it's really cute.