Secrets of Truth and Beauty

( 4 )


And the first runner up is...

When Dara Cohen was little, she was a bright, shiny star. She was the cutest seven-year-old who ever sang Ella Fitzgerald, and it was no wonder she was crowned Little Miss Maine.

That was then. Now Dara's seventeen and she's not so little anymore. So not little, that when her classmates find out about her illustrious resume, their jaws drop. That's just one of her many problems. Another is that her control-freak ...

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And the first runner up is...

When Dara Cohen was little, she was a bright, shiny star. She was the cutest seven-year-old who ever sang Ella Fitzgerald, and it was no wonder she was crowned Little Miss Maine.

That was then. Now Dara's seventeen and she's not so little anymore. So not little, that when her classmates find out about her illustrious resume, their jaws drop. That's just one of her many problems. Another is that her control-freak mom won't get off her case about anything. Yet the one that hurts the most is the family secret: Dara has an older sister her parents tried to erase from their lives.

When a disastrously misinterpreted English project lands her in the counselor's office—and her parents pull her out of school to save face—Dara realizes she has a decision to make. She can keep following the rules and being misunderstood, or she can finally reach out to the sister she's never met—a sister who lives on a collective goat farm in Massachusetts. Dara chooses B. What follows is a summer of revelations, some heartbreaking, some joyous; of friendship, romance, a local beauty pageant; and choices. And as autumn approaches, Dara finds she may have to let go of everything she's taken for granted in order to figure out who she really is, and what family really means.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In a beautifully written coming-of-age story, first-time author Frazer shows how an overweight teen gets her groove back. At age seven, Dara Cohen tap-danced and sang her way to stardom, winning the title of Little Miss Maine. Now, at 17, Dara carries a lot of baggage, both around her hips and in her heart ("Here's what happened after the pageant: I got fat"). When her autobiographical English presentation about society's obsession with thinness is horribly misunderstood, Dara decides to seek out her estranged older sister, now living on a Massachusetts goat farm. Although spending a few months with her sister isn't quite what Dara imagines, it is a time of self-discovery. Readers will quickly become intrigued with the unraveling of family secrets and the cast of memorable characters Dara meets on the commune: Owen, a gay high school senior; Owen's sensitive younger brother, Milo; silent Belinda, the matriarch of the farm; and Dara's sister, Rachel, the only person who can answer questions about the girls' troubling family history. Dara emerges as a likable, complex heroine, whose growing self-confidence is touching and inspiring. Ages 12-up. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Jeanna Sciarrotta
Dara Cohen was a child beauty queen who grew up to be a fat teenager. That is what Dara fears her mother and classmates think about her. Contrary to that belief, however, winning Little Miss Maine was not the highlight of Dara's life; in fact, she considers herself to be a pretty well-adjusted teen. Yes, she had a few weight issues, but who did not have issues in high school right? Everything begins to crumble around her, however, when Dara's creativity leads her to complete her school biography project on teen pageants and the pressure to be thin. Suddenly, everyone thinks that she is depressed. No one will listen as she tries to explain that she is fine and just being creative. Instead, her parents pull her out of school and talk therapy with her. Dara decides that this is the perfect time to get to the bottom of a huge family secret regarding an older sister that she had never met and that her parents have virtually erased all traces of. Dara tracks down Rachel, her older sister and decides to spend the summer living with her on the farm that she runs in Massachusetts. The summer that follows is not one that Dara ever could have imagined, even on her most creative days. It is a summer of friendships, personal growth, and the struggle to find the truth about who she really is and her personal expectations. Megan Frazier capitalizes on the hot topic of teen body issues in her first novel. While the setting and some of the topics discussed in the book, such as the farm as a safe haven for young gay women, are a bit offbeat, the message in clear and true. It is not simply a novel about weight issues but also family dynamics and the struggle to fit in. Reviewer: Jeanna Sciarrotta
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—At the age of seven, Dara Cohen was so adorable and so talented that she won the title of Little Miss Maine. Now 17, she has definitely become plus-sized. When her English teacher assigns a multimedia autobiography project, Dara decides to use some of her old pageant footage to create a project called (Re)Think Thin and make a statement about how our society views overweight people. Her parents are so angry and humiliated that they pull her out of school and insist that she go into therapy, straining what is already a difficult relationship. Dara decides to contact her sister, whom she has never met and who has been estranged from their parents for years. She spends the summer with Rachel at Jezebel Goat Farm in rural Massachusetts, a collective farm that also serves as a haven for lesbian women and others who are not accepted by their families. As the summer progresses, Dara learns more about herself, her sister, and her family history, and proves that she is indeed talented and beautiful. This is a highly enjoyable read. There are some great references to singer Cass Elliot, who becomes a positive role model for Dara. The teen's relationship with her parents, particularly with her controlling mother, is tense and believable, and the characterizations of the eccentric residents of the goat farm are entertaining and appealing. The happy ending is predictable, but acknowledges that Dara still has many challenges ahead of her.—Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Pain and sweetness mingle in this enjoyable coming-of-age tale with a wonderful sense of place but muddled ideology. Challenged to create a multimedia autobiography about how a former Little Miss Maine could now be fat, Dara dares to include critical cultural analysis. Her clueless teacher sends her to the counselor; her seething, mortified parents yank her out of school. Shaken, Dara leaves Maine to visit the estranged older sister she's never met. Rachel's a cheese artisan at Jezebel Goat Farm in Massachusetts, historically a shelter for homeless lesbian teens. Dara's unhurried stay with Jezebel's multi-generational intentional family forms the story's glowing heart. The text supports gay characters unreservedly but flounders with other diversity: Dara's supposedly acceptable and beautiful while fat, yet Frazer reverts to a cliched fat-teen-loses-weight-in-nature arc (and resurrects stale Cass Elliot myths-"Who?" most teens will wonder-while fumblingly trying to debunk them). Farm resident Owen and quirky brother Milo are biracial but written with negating colorblindness, despite the ostensibly lily-white setting. The clean, mellow prose does better with setting and interpersonal relationships than on its attempted principles. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423117117
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 7/7/2009
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,396,302
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Megan Frazer studied English literature and creative writing at Columbia University. She lives with her husband in Maine, where she is a high school librarian. This is her first novel. Visit Megan online at
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2013

    This book is absolutely amazing! I read it, and fell in love wit

    This book is absolutely amazing! I read it, and fell in love with it! I'm a teen who struggles with weight... so I know what she's going through 
    and it's just... a really perfect book... Society should check it out and realize that Thin, isn't necessarily, IN. <3

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Marta Morrison for

    What would you do if you found out that you actually have an older sister that you have never even met or knew about?

    This is what happened to Dara. She accidentally found out that she had a sister who was seventeen years older than herself. Her parents don't speak of her and no one else will say anything except her uncle.

    Dara has a debacle at school and decides that she needs to meet Rachel and goes to find her in Massachusetts. She finds her on a goat farm which makes cheese. Dara stays on the farm with Rachel and finds another family - and herself - in the process.

    This was an interesting book filled with wonderful, diverse characters. There are a number of gay characters written in a realistic, loving way. The main character wasn't a skinny-minnie, and the fascination that society has with thinness was also explored.

    The relationship between Dara and Rachel is awkward, as it should be, and endearing as well. It really makes a case to teens to be who you want to be and not what society or others want you to be.

    This book was one that I kept wanting to return to while I was on vacation, which tells me that it is well-written and one that many should like. So do yourself a favor and pick up Megan Frazer's debut, SECRETS OF TRUTH AND BEAUTY.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2009

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    Posted February 12, 2010

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