Publication: July 2009
Megan Frazer's Secrets of Truth and Beauty has something for everyone. The book has mystery, action, romance, and a healthy dose of dysfunctional family.
In the book, it is no secret that Dara Cohen is fat (her word)--people can see that. What people can't seem to see is what a great person she is, or that she has a sister whom she has never met. When Dara gets into trouble over a body image project for school, she decides to find and call her long-lost sister. Rachel, Dara's sister, is surprised and pleased to her from her and invites Dara to meet her.
Dara picked up the phone to call Rachel and spite her parents, but she never bargained her life would completely change. Rachel is noting like Dara's parents said she was, and Dara begins to suspect her parents were lying about the past. As Dara begins to unravel the mystery of her sister, she learns a great deal about herself as well.
Frazer weaves a wonderful tale in this book. All the characters have depth and are full of life. Even secondary and tertiary characters are so vivid I felt as though I knew them. The descriptions of people and places are worthy of awards. I found myself sitting at the dinner table with the farm crew, waving from the float at the parade, and secretly reading the diary of the farm's owner when I thought no one was awake. In short, I was pulled completely into Dara's world.
While much of the focus of the book is on inside change, the author focuses some on the fact that Dara is overweight. The book is filled with Dara backpedaling on her statements about being fat. Sometimes Dara says her weight does not hold her back, but when she mets Owen, the H-O-T, hot farmhand, she decides he could NEVER like her because of her weight. It almost seems like in the end, Frazer lets Dara base her worth more on a beauty pagent and her ability to attract boys. Sure, the moral of the story is inner strength/beauty, change, and growth, but all that comes at the price of the typical, "I can't be beautiful outside because I'm fat" mantra.
In all, this book was a good read. Dara exemplifies a strong (at the end) female lead character who knows what she wants/needs and stands up for it. Readers will be pulled in by the mystery of the absentee sister, will stay to find out the story behind the farm, and will read to the end to find out what Dara decides really matters. The book doesn't hold anything back and there are scenes that are so raw and real that readers might feel like they are spying (although I doubt any of the farm members would really care). This story has the makings of a classic.
Rating: 4 and 1/2 pages