Jory Michaels has a problem.
A big, lumpy, ridiculous and embarrassing one — and it’s right on the edge of her face, there to greet each and every boy in Reno, Nevada who just may have paid an ounce of attention to her . . . if Super Schnozz wasn’t constantly there to ruin her chances at popularity and happiness.
And ruin it all, it does — Jory just can’t seem to muster up enough self-confidence to keep up with gorgeous and well-proportioned best friends Megan and Hannah as the summer before their senior year at Reno High stretches before them, long and inviting. Jory decides that this summer will be one of “passion” as she finds work delivering local cakes and flowers and begins saving for a nose job. As she works to set aside the $5,000 or so she’ll need, Jory fights to get of the shadows of her younger brother Finn, an Adonis-like soccer player and fiddler of girls’ hearts. She’s stuck, too, with her mother’s whacky dieting and constant commenting on Jory’s looks — especially how she doesn’t seem to resemble anyone else in their tanned, golden family. And then there’s the little issue of trying to grab the attention of Tyler Briggs, her longtime crush who encourages her affections just enough to keep her from giving up on him completely.
And so Sydney Salter’s My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters goes: Jory laments Super Schnozz; Jory obsesses about not being as good-looking as her friends; Jory worries she’ll die alone, the “world’s oldest virgin” living in a hotel room and drinking herself to death. Jory crashes vans, trips over her own feet, breaks things and constantly drops things, usually in front of Gideon, the bewildering (and big-nosed) son of a cake shop client.
I felt like I’d fallen head-first into 350-ish pages of a teenage girl’s obsessively insecure ramblings . . . oh, wait — I did.
Now before you get the wrong idea about me, I’ll say this — I did like the book. Jory was a believable — if not entirely likeable — heroine, and I think many teen girls would appreciate and relate to her body image issues. And like our narrator, I’ve also felt I have my own Super Schnozz perched on the edge of my face — and I’ve been very self-conscious about it! That’s really what attracted me to the book: I’m always interested in the plights of girls with big noses (I’ve been told we have far more personality than others. Between that and my mess of curly hair, I choose to believe that).
The real “moral” of the story here became blatantly obvious as Jory eventually bonded with her mother enough to have a frank discussion of why Jory came to find herself in the office of a plastic surgeon: her own mother’s ridiculous dieting and constant discussion of her own looks made Jory grow up feeling insecure and judged. Though her mom swore she was only commenting on herself and not her daughter’s appearance, she was leading by example — and the example Jory observed was that beauty was the only gateway to happiness. And that belief, of course, made her ridiculously unhappy.
I really felt for Jory’s mom — I honestly don’t think she meant to do such a number on her kid’s confidence. But she did. And that was sad.
While Salter is definitely a good writer who had no trouble getting in the mind of teens, my fundamental issue with the book was this: it was whiny. Oh, so very, very whiny. While we had the neat framework of the summer laid out as the timeline of the novel, I felt like Jory in her work van: driving aimlessly for hours on end, no particular path in mind. I just didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. Even as her friends pulled more and more ridiculous stunts to gain the attention of boys and Jory found herself in all sorts of awkward situations, they just weren’t as funny as I thought they would be. Most of them made feel . . . sad. And empty for her as she wound up snuggling up to boys who couldn’t have cared less about her, or worrying about the same set of issues that played like a record in her head.
Yes, Jory seemed real — but that’s what also made her really frustrating. I had a hard time catching any snippet of her personality beyond what she claimed to like in order to fit in and be accepted. This was all part of the “coming-of-age” story, yes — Jory’s lack of an individual identity, the fact that she invested too much of herself in others . . . but I just really wanted something more.
3 out of 5!