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In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin’s real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with an incarcerated mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher at school coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa’s view of her own world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her own self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers, and that she doesn’t need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her own true beauty.
Like Vanessa felt like a blast from the past for me. Although I don’t quite remember the eighties fully but I bonded with Vanessa having to be raised by a single father who worked a lot. This was a story that definitely gave me the chills. It is reality that many lower income families face. Having many family members in the home but not a lot of resources. Families members that have their own strife. I didn’t feel like any of the characters fell flat. This story is empowering and honestly I wish could have read this story when I was a tween.
5 out of 5 stars