Release Date: April 10, 2012Belles started very well for me. There was a blurb from Meg Cabot, which will always grab my attention in a good way, and the first few chapters hooked me. First, we meet Isabelle (Izzy) Scott. Izzy grew up in the poor beach town of Harborside, raised by her mother (until her death in a car crash) and her grandmother. After her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s takes away her ability to properly care for Izzy, a social worker takes her to her closest relatives- the family of her “distant cousin” and budding senator Bill Monroe in shiny, upscale Emerald Cove. Mirabelle (Mira) is Bill’s daughter, and she is none too happy to have her life ruined by a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Many familiar twists and turns of the new-girl-in-a-new-small-town tale occur, but they weren’t of that “ugh, not this plot again” variety. Izzy is adorably awkward in dealing with her new, more expensive surroundings as well as finding out that her summer crush actually lives in Emerald Cove but has a girlfriend, while Mira and her group of popular friends, especially Queen Bee Savannah, don’t take well to Izzy at all.
Age Group: Young Adult
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
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.
After those initial chapters, though, the familiarity goes from comfortable to formulaic. Every single plot twist could be seen from miles away. Unfortunately, the biggest twist of the entire book, the most important and most climactic part of the novel (which I will not reveal) was spoiled for me… because it was written in the description on the back cover of the ARC. Though I could pretty much see where the author was going, it still sucks to have that sort of thing ruined before the book even starts. I kept waiting for that piece of information to show itself, thinking that it would be mentioned early, until I realized that I was more than halfway through the book with no reveal in sight. I wonder if I would have enjoyed the story more had I not known from the beginning.
The narrative switches points of view from Izzy’s to Mira’s at about every chapter, which I thought was a nice touch. Izzy is clearly the more sympathetic of the two, but it was good to know where Mira was coming from with her decisions regarding her secret art classes and her interaction with Savannah. Personally, I enjoyed Izzy’s voice more, but Izzy also had a meatier story than Mira, so that’s to be expected. The dialogue does veer into the unbelievable at certain points, and I thought the names of the male characters were too similar (Hayden, Brayden, Kellen), but all in all, the story of these Belles kept me entertained.
If it wasn’t for the reveal on the back cover, I believe I would have enjoyed Izzy & Mira’s story much more. As it stands, though, I found Belles to be pleasant if not predictable. I am interested enough to see where this story will go in the sequel, out Fall 2012.