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Outside Beauty

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  1,079 Ratings  ·  171 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

Hardcover, 272 pages
Published June 3rd 2008 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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Kira-Kira by Cynthia KadohataGirl in Translation by Jean KwokAmerican Born Chinese by Gene Luen YangA Step from Heaven by An NaBorn Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
Best Asian-American Teen Fiction
12th out of 147 books — 225 voters
The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsSavvy by Ingrid LawThe Graveyard Book by Neil GaimanThe Underneath by Kathi AppeltThe Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
2009 Newbery Contenders
45th out of 68 books — 597 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,059)
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May 13, 2012 karen rated it liked it

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
Elle Fae
2.5 stars.

I'm not sure what to think of this. This author is either a hit or miss for me: either I love her book or I don't like it. But this one was just... bareable.

The writing was nothing special, but it hooked me in enough to continue reading it, and it was quite a short book so I was able to finish it in a few hours.

Four sisters in this book grow up under their irresponsible parent in an apartment somewhere in 1980s Chicago.

The neglecting parent is one cliche that I'm getting tired of tru
May 05, 2008 Ellen rated it it was ok
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.
Dec 22, 2010 Thomas rated it liked it
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.
Aug 05, 2009 Elizabeth K. rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008-new-reads
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Clarybella Diaz-Colon
Feb 23, 2016 Clarybella Diaz-Colon rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 30, 2015 Dalila rated it it was amazing
Do you like books that have somewhat drama and suspension? well, if you do this book is the right book for you! The genre of this book is realistic fiction. Overall, I really enjoyed this book.

This book is about this girl named Shelby and her family. Shelby is the oldest sister of the rest of her siblings. Her mother is always somewhat there for them. One day Shelby and her mother ended up talking about Shelby's father who is unknown. Then one day somehow everything goes downhill from there on t
Jul 17, 2009 Josiah rated it really liked it
"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
May 20, 2009 Nancy rated it really liked it
Shelves: 9th-grade
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
Jan 03, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 21, 2009 Wendy rated it liked it
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
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
Harun Harahap
Pertama agak kaget juga baca ada empat bersaudara dari empat bapak yang berbeda. Namun, setelah lanjut dibaca, jadi bikin iri sama mereka yang kedekatan satu sama lainnya sulit untuk dipisahkan.

Terima kasih kak Syl, sudah meminjamkan buku ini.
Oct 16, 2015 Angel rated it liked it
Read this book 3 years ago. Just remembered about it now, oops.
From what I remember I enjoyed it and thought it was funny. And that's all I can really say.
Destiny Trigueros
Apr 11, 2016 Destiny Trigueros rated it really liked it
Have you ever read a story that is so good and complicated in the same time? Either way I would recommend the book Outside Beauty. The genre of this book is realistic fiction. I honestly thought this was a decent book. The mother (name not stated) has had 4 daughters with different men. Shelby, Maddie, Lakey, and Marilyn. All of the sudden they all get spilt up and get send with their fathers. They're determined to get their family together.

This story mainly takes place in Chicago, where they ar
Feb 08, 2015 Catherine rated it liked it
This was an interesting book. The writing was simplistic, more simplistic than usual for YA, but not in a bad way. It felt a bit more middle grade at times than YA, but the subject matter was definitely older.

Four sisters, four different fathers, and a mother who is obsessed with her looks and the men who support their lives. It was interesting, but I guess I expected a bit too much from that plot, even though I knew the girls would soon split and end up with their respective fathers. I did enj
Oct 19, 2014 Ally rated it really liked it
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 Steinacker
Apr 15, 2014 Ryne Steinacker rated it liked it
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.

*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
Emi Guzman
Mar 09, 2014 Emi Guzman rated it liked it
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
Xylia Neo
Jan 13, 2015 Xylia Neo rated it it was amazing
"Why did the world give you twice as much as you could handle?"
"Who wanted a long life if you were sad?"

"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 lives life on her ow
May 10, 2015 Sylvia rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Oke. Empat anak perempuan dari 4 LAKI-LAKI? Ini apa yang ada dalam pikiran saya ya, saat beli buku ini untuk koleksi perpustakaan? FYI, saya bekerja di perpustakaan SD! Buku ini pun langsung saya tarik dari tumpukan buku baru sebelum sempat masuk rak buku *fiuhh* Bayangin kalo ada orang tua yang lihat anaknya pinjam buku ini?

Anyway, kisahnya diceritakan dari sudut pandang Shelby, anak kedua dari Helen. Anak pertamanya bernama Marylin, anak ketiga Lakey, dan terakhir si bungsu Maddie. Mereka san
Jan 08, 2009 Laura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
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.
Sep 11, 2009 Wendy rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 28, 2016 Ruby rated it it was ok
I absolutely loved both Kira-Kira and Weedflower, so when I saw that this book was by Cynthia Kadohata, I immediately picked it up and was super excited for another touching story. This book, however, was nothing of the sort. The characters all seemed unreasonably immature, especially the supposedly 14-year-old narrator, Shelby. Her three sisters were irritating as well, to say the least. Despite constant mentions of how close they all were, I just did not get any sense of "awww" from their rela ...more
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
Sep 17, 2015 Kristina rated it it was ok
Another one I read for YA curriculum creation. With some shining examples of YA lit out there, I feel like this one is too watered down to stand behind. The characters here were interesting and fleshed out enough to warrant some good discussion; four girls and four different dads offers enough opportunity for detail. However, the ending was far too trite and neat, the narrator's odd past-tense narration and not-quite-passable-for-13 voice got somewhat aggravating, and the premise itself was a bi ...more
Apr 01, 2015 Teresa rated it really liked it
"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
Jan 31, 2014 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-coming-of-age
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
Jan 13, 2010 Sandy rated it liked it
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
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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 about Cynthia Kadohata...

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