Madeleine George’s Looks, published by Viking Juvenile in 2008, is the author's debut novel.
Meghan Ball and Aimee Zorn are not the popular girls at Valley Regional High School. Aimee is extremely thin and underweight. Meghan is overweight. With the exception of a group of boys who torment her, no one can see Meghan. Both Meghan and Aimee have developed strategies to survive the challenges of high school and other parts of their lives.
Each girl has an unusual talent. Aimee is a freshman and a promising poet. She hopes to have her work published with the Photon editorial collective. Her mother’s last boyfriend is a poetry professor. He encouraged Aimee to write; however, he recently moved out of their house. Aimee misses him. She is not comfortable talking about her food issues with her mother. As such, she says she has food “allergies.” Her list of foods to which she has “bad reactions” grows and grows. She allows herself to eat carrot sticks and Jell-o. Meghan is a sophomore and is incredibly observant, despite the fact that few can see her. People discuss their secrets right in front of her as if she is not there. She would prefer not to be noticed. Aimee and Meghan become friends because of a Cara, a popular girl who seems perfect. Some time ago, Cara hurt Meghan emotionally; this time Cara betrays Aimee by stealing one of her poems for publication.
Ms. Champoux provides one of the few opportunities for comic relief in the novel. She is the secretary for the school described as a “pit bull in a perm and a polyester blazer.” She reads the school’s morning announcements very poorly. Mr. Handsley is a teacher who challenges and encourages his students to succeed, and he notices how Meghan keeps herself well-hidden.
Reviewers note that the sensitive content contains such honesty that readers not only relate to the characters but feel like they are part of these stories. Humiliation, loneliness, and vulnerability are tapped by George’s prose and poetry (through Aimee). Critics note that the bleak content may be more appropriate for high school age readers.