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Outside Beauty

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  891 ratings  ·  148 reviews
"My mother had four daughters by four different men."

There's only one way Shelby and her sisters can describe their mother: She's a sexpot. Helen Kimura collects men (and loans, spending money, and gifts of all kinds) from all over the country. Sure, she's not your typical role model, but she's also not just a pretty face and nail polish. She is confident and brave; she

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Hardcover, 272 pages
Published June 3rd 2008 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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Kira-Kira by Cynthia KadohataA Step from Heaven by An NaGirl in Translation by Jean KwokBorn Confused by Tanuja Desai HidierFalling From Grace by S.L. Naeole
Best Asian-American teen fiction
10th out of 101 books — 142 voters
The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsThe Graveyard Book by Neil GaimanSavvy by Ingrid LawThe Underneath by Kathi AppeltThe Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
2009 Newbery Contenders
53rd out of 92 books — 577 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,602)
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karen
HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!

as i review yet another book about spectacularly irresponsible parenting!! like Lullabies for Little Criminals, these four girls grow up with a parent blissfully ignoring their parental responsibilities in order to live in some sort of hedonistic wonderland. in lullabies, the relationship was drug-addled romping, where the two of them behaved like children together until it all came tumbling down. this book is less dangerous than that, but helen kimura isn't going to win any...more
Ellen
Disappointing, considering the beauty of the author's previous book, "Kira-Kira." This one suffers from fits and starts in pacing, as well as an uneven premise with a flimsy resolution. Parts are charming; the sisters' close ties is the glue that holds the book together. All told, though, I think the author lost track of intention and the plot suffered.
Thomas
I really loved Kadohata's Kira-Kira, but this book as well as Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam did not amaze me. I can see her writing talent through her development of Shelby and the bond between her sisters, but the setting and plot could have been improved. I do not understand the reasoning behind the 1980's setting when the story did not revolve around historical context; I would have liked to seen the story take place in contemporary society, with e-mail and other electronic devices coming...more
Elizabeth K.
Wow, this was great. YA novel, about four sisters who are actually half sisters because their mother more or less makes a living by serial dating men and then breaking their hearts when she moves on to the next guy. The sisters, who range in age from 16 down to 6, get daily lessons from their mom about poise, graceful posture, preventing wrinkles, appraising jewelry, and attracting men. Most of the action takes place during a summer when the girls are separated as each goes to stay with her own...more
Josiah
"Why did the world give you twice as much as you could handle?"

—Shelby, "Outside Beauty", P. 140

"Who wanted a long life if you were sad?"

—Shelby, P. 166

Cynthia Kadohata, a master of young adult literature, has once again displayed her stunning skills in this tightly woven, suspenseful, complex story that deals with all kinds of unconventional relationships and the way that our interconnectedness with those around us will profoundly affect our lives, whether or not the connections themselves...more
Nancy
Everyone has their own family stories making their family warm and maintaining in happiness. Have you ever read a book in which every characters struggle with some pretty big concepts of family and beauty? If not yet, flip through pages of Outside Beauty by Cynthia Kadohata to know how it is like! Through this book, you can find it unbelievable having four sisters, each having a different father than the other, and still have a loving family.
13 year old Shelby has 3 sisters and a strong-willed...more
Laura
At first I thought this was going to be one of those books that Teaches a Lesson, but it turned out to be very sweet.

Four half-sisters, the daughters of a very beautiful mother, are used to having different fathers and different men around. Helen (mom) doesn't want to settle down, nor does she believe that men want anything more than the perfect, beautiful woman. When she is in a bad car accident, the girls are sent to live with their fathers - and it seems that Helen has no one "type" for men....more
Wendy
Kind of an odd book, with two-star aspects and three-star aspects. Like many other reviewers, I didn't see any point to the 1980s setting.

The most interesting and, I think, best-written parts are about Shelby getting to know her father, and I wish that had made up the bulk of the book. There was an especially intriguing comment thrown out that wasn't further developed that just hinted about how Jiro felt about having his daughter thrust upon him.

Jiro, Shelby, and Maddie were pretty well-develope...more
Jenny
265 pages Four sisters, Marilyn, Shelby, Lakey, and Maddie, adore their mother, Helen Kimura. Helen isn't your typical mother, she is always concerned with beauty and her latest boyfriend, and the girls all have different fathers. When Helen is in a car accident, the girls are forced to go live with their respective fathers, and no one is happy. The four are inseperable, and the youngest, Maddie, is being smothered by her father's strict ideas of child rearing. Shelby attempts to bring her siste...more
Ally
Shelby is a 13 year old girl with 3 sisters (Maddie, Marilyn, and Lakey) that mean the world to her. They all have different fathers though, due to the many boyfriends their mom has dated. Their mother is extremely precise on how she looks and acts each day. She wants to be a perfection, you could say. The girls agree that their mother is really beautiful, and that she isn't a bad mother, even with her excessive beauty tips, and boyfriends. Anyways these girls were as close as could be, all of t...more
Ryne
This is one of those books I wanted to hate, but couldn't. It was donated to my class library, so I flipped through it over a few sittings and ended up reading almost the whole thing.

Compelling:
*The relationship with the protagonist (Shelby) and her father. What happens when you're forced to live with someone you've only seen perhaps seven times in your entire life?

*Helen Kimura - I wanted to hate this woman because of her laissez-faire attitude towards life and making a living off of men (she i...more
Emi Guzman
My mother actually introduced me to Kadohata's works a long while ago, and I enjoy her writing quite a lot. Many of her characters depict Japanese American girls, but in different eras than mine, and it is interesting to see how much I can relate to those fictitional Nikkei's despite our differences of situation. Therefore, I had to read "Outside Beauty" since I usually feel the need to read all or at least most of the books written by an author I particularly admire. I do not particularly favor...more
Teresa
"Outside Beauty" is a story of sisterhood and coming of age. Shelby lives in Chicago with her beautiful man-collecting mother and her three sisters. She and her sisters are all her mother's daughters, but each of them has a different father. This fact never really affected their girl-party lifestyle. Shelby barely knows her own father and doesn't care to. All she and her sisters want is to be just like their beautiful, strong, fun, care-free mother. However, the day comes when their mother isn't...more
Laura
Kadohata won the Newbery for Kira-Kira, but I found this book to be far more powerful. Narrated by one of the four daughters of a woman who lives on her beauty - supported by an endless string of boyfriends - this tale of family love and relationships resists easy answers and cliches. The characters have surprising depth and complexity. This is YA literature at its best and a story that will remain with me for a long time.
Wendy
Kadohata's writing does not disappoint, though the story, for me, lacked the impact of Kira Kira, an admittedly high standard. Delightful characters, which Kadohata does a wonderful job of keeping distinct.
Crystal
I really loved meeting the sisters in this book and seeing the way they interacted with each other. There are four sisters who each have different fathers. They also have some fantastic strengths that they are able to develop since their mother has a laissez faire attitude about parenting. She is definitely using the gradual release of responsibility model - or maybe the speedy release of responsibility. She allows them to become independent early on in their lives.

As the title suggests, there...more
Rebecca
This book starts by introducing us to Shelby and Maddie. Maddie is pushing a shopping cart and wants Shelby to get inside so she can push her in the shopping cart. Maddie is of course promising not to let the cart with Shelby fall over. A few seconds later, once Maddie has built up some speed, she hits a curb and the shopping cart tumbles over spilling Shelby onto the ground. Her nose is bleeding and she gets a shiner from the cart. They go home only to find out that they are taking a rode trip....more
Sandy
Parts of this book I loved:
1) The narrator's slow discovery that perhaps some of the things her mother taught her were not entirely right.
2) The relationship between the four sisters.
3) The tension of what was going to happen to Maddie under her father's care.
4) Basically, the last 1/3 of the book.

But there were other things that were bothersome or confusing:
1) The book was set in 1983, but the historical setting didn't really seem important.
2) Time passed somewhat stragely. I'm still trying to...more
Deltay
One mother. Four daughters, one unbreakable bond. However, when an accident drives the four away from their mother to each of their different respective fathers, the bond is threatened, stretched, and thinned to breaking point.

Raised by their mother in an environment where outside beauty is everything, the girls receive a wake up call and are forced to cope with the fact that their lives have been drastically changed.

In Outside Beauty, Newberry Medal-winning author Cynthia Kadohata has explored...more
Michelle (FabBookReviews)
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Tegan
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Suzanne
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Karissa
I enjoyed this story. I've read a lot of complaints that the time period did not matter at all, but I did enjoy that the author slipped in the fact that the year was 1983. It placed these girls in a different time because let's face it, if this story had taken place in 1993 everything would have been different.

I did have several problems with it though.

1. Maddie/Maddy. I hated her so much. She was a spoiled little girl and I felt she needed to buck up, 6 year old or not. Yes, her particular f...more
Susanne M
This book caught my attention a) because it's written by Cynthia Kadohata, whose "Kira-Kira" is one of my favorite books, and b) due to all the less than stellar reviews. I wanted to see just how much I would be disappointed by it. Once I started it though, I couldn't put it down. The dynamics within the unconventional close-knit family of five females; the teachings and parenting of a mother who believes that beauty is everything; her seemingly never-ending stream of potential suitors as well a...more
Calsi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com

It's always been Shelby, her mom, and her three sisters. The story is told through Shelby's eyes. She is the second eldest of the four. They live in an untraditional family, to say the least. Each of the sisters has a different father. And they each have different ancestry, as well. One is half Japanese, half Italian. One is half Japanese and half Chinese. One is half Japanese and half Anglo. And Shelby is all Japanese.

Their mom has always been on the ques...more
Adriana
4.5 stars. I really enjoyed the story of Shelby and her sisters. Although the story is set in the mid 1980's, there isn't anything that really dates it. I think the author may have chosen to use this time period so that the functions of everyday life are much simpler, (no cell phones, no internet, no social networking) and in this way the characters can write letters to each other and commnicate in a much more personal way through visits and face to face encounters. Shelby has three sisters who...more
Abby Johnson
Shelby and her three sisters are torn apart when their mother is in a car accident and has to stay in the hospital. Physically and emotionally shattered, their mom sends each of them to live with their fathers (four different men in three different states). While mom faces the fact that her great beauty might be gone forever, sisters Shelby, Marilyn, Lakie, and Maddie must face living without each other and finding their own ways.

This book wasn't about what I thought it was going to be about (th...more
Kate
For a long time I never touched YA books. In school I had basically gone from juvenile to adult reading, and YA just got lost in the mix. Even working in the library wasn’t enough to make me want to read a YA book. I knew friends and colleagues who did, but it just didn’t interest me. I thought of YA as mostly chick lit filled with flirty romances and superficial issues. Well, I’ve proven myself wrong yet again with the latest book I’ve read, Outside Beauty by Cynthia Kadohata. A lot of the book...more
Rebecca
Another Kadohata book I enjoyed reading. I wasn't so sure about this one at the start. But, Kadohata has a way with character. She creates protagonists that I recognize. The characters embody traits that feel authentic. In the end, she creates characters that I feel like I know or would like to know.

In Outside Beauty, she did a nice job at challenging my judgmental side. She creates a mother who for all intents and purposes appears shallow and self-serving. Yet, from this woman four engaging an...more
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Cynthia Kadohata is a Japanese American writer known for writing coming of age stories about Asian American women.

She spent her early childhood in the South; both her first adult novel and first children's novel take place in Southern states. Her first adult novel was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Her first children's book, Kira-Kira, won the 2005 Newbery Medal. Her first published s...more
More about Cynthia Kadohata...
Kira-Kira Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam Weedflower The Thing About Luck A Million Shades of Gray

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