By Jonathan Bernstein
Read my interview with the author.
Just because I can't ignore it, let's look at the original cover:
Why does this cover work better?
1. The clothes are classier. Hottie's outfit was inspired by her style idol Audrey Hepburn, who would wear a little black dress with pearls - but not one that looks like a bagged Halloween costume.
2. The orange is brighter than the light pink, making the whole thing pop more. You know what happens to books that pop? People pick them up.
3. The girl is a cartoon, a nice homage to the fact superheroes are mostly found in graphic novels and animated shows. It gives a hint of the contents and taps into one of the hottest markets. Many local bookstores and libraries have been expanding their graphic novel/manga sections.
4. Young adults like it better. (So do adults who read young adult literature.) HOTTIE is a young adult book. You see where I'm going here?
More power to Penguin, for doing what they needed to do to get the book in stores. But bookstore buyers, I must ask you: Really? Really?
But hey, we all know not to judge a book by its cover. It's the content that matters. And I was almost as worried about the content as the cover a couple of chapters in. The first sweeps through the head of several characters of varying importance, as Alison receives news of her election. None of the characters come off as particularly sympathetic. Alison then gives in to her friends manipulation to get plastic surgery - at fourteen.
But when her bad decision goes wrong, HOTTIE gets moving. There's a wonderful sequence of destruction as Alison discovers her new flamability, at which point she realizes she needs the help of her high school's comic book geek, David. Their adventures together help Alison become less shallow and David more self-actualized. (Plus, their driver - an older teen who can be paid to chauffer people to parties - gets off some of the best lines.) Then she discovers her arch nemesis: Wettie. (So they don't know her powers . . . it makes sense.)
I really enjoyed how the love triangle was done. Both boys were nice, cared about Alison for Alison, although one had the advantage of knowing her secret identity. Love triangles work much better when there's reasonable belief either of the choices could win fair maiden. (I'm looking at you TWILIGHT.)
After the disastrous beginning chapters, HOTTIE becomes a funny and entertaining story. There's crime-fighting, friendship drama, family drama, and romantic drama. Pretty much any kind of drama you can think of, which is a nice counterpoint to the comedic elements. Jonathan Bernstein likes to make pop culture references, most of which blend in fine, except for an unfortunate one to Chris Brown. Of course, I read my copy shortly after the news broke so the reference will likely become less jarring as time goes on.
I'm partial to superhero stories, but even taking that bias into account I enjoyed HOTTIE and stayed up late to finish it. The ending is a little far-fetched, but I like how it calls back to an earlier important conversation in the novel enough to accept it.
HOTTIE is available now, and is Bernstein's debut novel. He's also a screenwriter, so you can enjoy his talents with the movies JUST MY LUCK and MAX KEEBLE'S BIG MOVE. His blog is linked to above, as is my blogiversary/birthday interview with him.