More like 3.5 stars.
[ Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
Girls can be such snots.
Jen Calonita writes this well; so well that I was seething over the treatment of Mira and her friends when it comes to Izzie. Didn’t they see that the girl felt ridiculously out of place without their help? Her mom died when she was 10, she never knew her dad, and her only known relative is losing her memory and is now in a nursing home. But no, these popular girls only knew how to use money and their good looks to their advantage and it drove me crazy.
Belles dives into a familiar Pretty in Pink stereotype – the rich, pretty girls vs. the ones from the wrong side of the tracks. The girls who thought they owned it all versus the ones who can’t catch a break. You can’t blame either side really. It’s just how the two were brought up, but really? What about decency!? And kindness!?
From the beginning, it’s obvious that Mira exists in this gray area except she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. Her best friend, Savannah, is the queen bee and what she says goes. Or else she makes your life a living hell and Mira is not sure how to stand up to her. All these girls are so quick to judge and categorize everyone else because of their interests, their looks, or their bank accounts. Why people can’t like art and cheerleading… I have no idea. But in Mira’s world it’s hard to break out of this popular circle and maintain a decent reputation.
While Belles is predictable at times, Calonita makes Mira and Izzy’s situations feel fresh and the reader is able to get a true handle on each of their characters. You care about each of them, and root for the two to come together. Then there’s Brayden, a boy Izzy meets during the summer at home, and fits into her new life in the most unfortunate way. And oh, are these two just sort of perfect. Their chemistry is just brewing in their scenes together, and that makes it that sweeter. Bravo for some great supporting characters (Mira’s entire family and Izzy’s new friends) and some fleeting Disney references. (Like me, Calonita is a huge Disney fan!)
Belles feels part Cinderella story, part Mean Girls and it is oh-so good (especially when you reach the grand finale at the end). Best of all, the book can definitely live and breathe on its own and I prefer that when it comes to a piece of a series.