Author: Jen Calonita
Release Date: April 10, 2012 (hardcover)
Source: ARC provided by publisher
Overall: 3.5 Stars
Fifteen-year-old Isabelle Scott loves her life by the boardwalk on the supposed wrong side of the tracks in North Carolina. But when tragedy strikes, a social worker sends her to live with a long-lost uncle and his preppy privileged family. Isabelle is taken away from everything she's ever known, and, unfortunately, inserting her into the glamorous lifestyle of Emerald Cove doesn't go so well. Her cousin Mirabelle Monroe isn't thrilled to share her life with an outsider, and, in addition to dealing with all the rumors and backstabbing that lurk beneath their classmates' Southern charm, a secret is unfolding that will change both girls' lives forever.
It's a lot more difficult to find fun contemporary novels which offer its readers pure entertainment, so when I first heard about Jen Calonita's Belles, I jumped at the chance to read it. And you know what? Belles completely delivered. It's a wonderful summer read filled with family drama and spoiled rich girls you would just love to slap in the face, or you know, have the satisfaction of seeing them completely humiliated.
I immediately sympathized with Izzie's character and took a liking to her right away. Raised in Harborside her entire life, Izzie has always loved her supportive friends and community, despite the town's reputation as one of the sketchier areas in North Carolina. She's a hard-working, sensible girl who cares for elderly grandmother and dedicates her extra time to her swim team and lifeguarding on the beach. When a social worker tells Izzie that her grandmother's Alzheimer's condition has progressed too far for her to handle on her own anymore, and that she'll be moving in to live with a long-lost uncle and his family, Izzie knows her life will never be the same.
On the other hand, Mira has always had everything handed to her and takes her privileged lifestyle in Emerald Cove for granted. She's never had to worry about money the same way her new cousin, Izzie, has always had to. Mira is also once of the most popular girls at her private school, partly because of her friendship to Savannah, who's the perfect definition of a mean girl. Savannah is one of those girls who can be sweet to your face one moment, and then stab you once your back is turned the next. But even though Mira knows Savannah can go too far in hurting others, she's still more content being a follower than growing a spine and speaking up for herself. If Mira had come to her senses sooner and tried to atone for some of her actions against Izzie in making her life more difficult, I would have probably liked her character more. I did love how her older brother, Hayden, wasn't afraid to call her out for acting like a clone of Savannah though!
If you're looking for a light contemporary read with Southern charm, a touch of cute romance, and a lot of heart, then I'm sure you'll definitely be interested in reading Jen Calonita's Belles! And did I mention there's a shocking revelation that will leave you gasping aloud by the end? I cannot wait to see how Izzie and Mira's story will continue in Winter White, the second novel in the Belles series!
Thanks so much to Hachette Book Group Canada for providing this review copy! You can learn more about Jen Calonita's Belles on Hachette's website, and if you're not already doing so, don't forget to follow HBG Canada on Twitter and "like" their Facebook page!