Pretty: A Novel

Pretty: A Novel

by Jillian Lauren


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Pretty: A Novel by Jillian Lauren

An electrifying debut novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Some Girls.

Bebe Baker is an ex-everything: ex-stripper, ex-Christian, ex-drug addict, ex-pretty girl.

It's been one year since the car accident that killed her boyfriend left her scarred and shaken. Flanked by an eccentric posse of friends, she is serving out a self-imposed sentence at a halfway house, while trying to finish cosmetology school. Amid the rampant diagnoses, over-medication, compulsive eating, and acrylic nails of Los Angeles, Bebe looks for something to believe in before something—her past, the dangerously magnetic men in her life, her own bad choices—knocks her off course again.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780452297340
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/30/2011
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 664,095
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jillian Lauren is a writer, storyteller, mom, and rock-wife. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the memoirs Everything You Ever Wanted and Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, and the novel PrettySome Girls has been translated into 18 different languages and is currently being adapted for TV. She has written for The New York TimesThe Paris ReviewVanity FairLos Angeles MagazineElleThe Daily Beast and Salon, among others.

She lives with her husband, musician Scott Shriner, and their two sons in Los Angeles.

Reading Group Guide


Bebe Baker is a survivor. A transplant from Toledo, Ohio, Bebe follows her musician boyfriend Aaron to Los Angeles, only to find herself trapped in a life of stagnation and addiction. Following a drug and alcohol-fueled dispute, a devastating car accident leaves Aaron dead and Bebe lost, scarred, and broken.

Now, as a resident in a halfway house called Serenity, Bebe is trying to pull her life together. She is mere hours away from completing her hairdressing training and seems on the verge of fulfilling her dream of giving up the dank hopelessness of Los Angeles for the more promising San Francisco. However, a mentally unstable boyfriend, an unexpected pregnancy, and a surprising visitor from her past sends her on downward spiral that may or may not destroy the new, meager life she has struggled to build.

Pretty is a story about loss and survival. It is about facing one's past head on and coming to terms with one's deep flaws. It is a novel about finding faith in oneself to move on.


Jillian Lauren is the author of the New York Times bestseller Some Girls and has an MFA from Antioch University. She lives in Los Angeles with her son and husband, Weezer bass player, Scott Shriner.

Q. Pretty deals heavily with addiction and Bebe's life in and out of Serenity. How did you go about constructing this book? What sort of research did you do? What drew you to the topic?

I always included details from my own life in my fiction. Though the narrative isn't autobiographical, Pretty is a collage of people I've known, places I've lived and questions I've struggled with.

Addiction is one of the themes of the book from which I drew heavily on personal experience. I've battled addiction issues for much of my life, as have many people I love. I think addiction is a trope that eloquently expresses the compulsive rhythms of contemporary culture. Addiction is also a great vehicle with which to explore the theme of faith. Substance abuse is a monstrous, ruinous thing and it's nearly impossible to overcome without a profound shift of consciousness on the part of the addict. I suppose there are ways other than faith to achieve that shift, but I personally don't know of any.

However, there are aspects of Pretty that required more formal research, such as the worlds of mental illness and religion.

Q. The book is told from Bebe's point of view. How did you go about building a "voice" for Bebe? What was the most challenging part about being in her head?

The voice of a particular work is usually the first thing that comes to me, and that was certainly true for Pretty. I can always tell that I've got a new project brewing when there's a voice in my head clamoring to be heard and that voice isn't mine. Voice is actually the most mysterious part of the writing process for me, because the formulation of it isn't conscious and it's not a function of craft or discipline or any of those other things that come into play later on. When it comes to the voice of a character, I think of myself more as a channel or a conduit and figure my job is just to open up and listen

Q. Los Angeles is framed as an unintended landing place for Bebe. What is your personal experience in L.A. and how much did it inform the writing of this book?

Unlike Bebe, I moved to Los Angeles intentionally. But I never intended to stay. Yet ten years later here I am and a move doesn't seem to be anywhere on the horizon. So I guess Bebe's relationship with Los Angeles and with her whole environment is about my own experience of finding a home in an unexpected place. That theme is so important that Los Angeles turns into almost another character in the book.

Q. There's a fair amount of attention to beauty, "prettiness," or traditional notions of what "pretty" means. Where do you stand on the culturally constructed idea of prettiness in this country? What did you want to say through this novel?

My own relationship with culturally constructed beauty ideals is complex and I wouldn't say that I have a clear-cut ethical stance on the matter. But I do recognize the damage these ideals can do to a woman's concept of self-worth. Pretty is set in the world capital of the over-valuation of physical beauty. Bebe is dealing in with feeling twisted and ugly, so that's set into stark relief by the value system that permeates the culture around her.

At the same time, much of the humor and friendship in the book happens at the beauty college Bebe attends. So while Bebe's struggle with beauty leads her to some very dark places, it also provides a context for the wisdom that eventually becomes her salvation.

Q. What are you working on now?

I'm working on a book about how we construct identity, as explored through the subject of adoption.

  • Who is Bebe Baker? Based on what her narration of the story, what impression do you get of her character?
  • Bebe reveals early on that her boyfriend Aaron died in a car crash. How would you describe Bebe's role in the events leading up to the accident? How does the accident inform Bebe's character?
  • Bebe lives in a halfway house complex called Serenity. What is your impression of her life there? What is her relationship like with the other inhabitants of the house? What role does Susan Schmidt play in the story?
  • Throughout the book, Bebe discusses her views on God. What is your impression of Bebe's beliefs? How do her beliefs inform her actions?
  • Who is Jake? What is your opinion of his mental condition? What attracts Bebe to him and how would you describe their relationship?
  • Bebe mentions the loss of her father several times during the book. How has this loss affected her? What parallels can you draw between Bebe's loss of her father and her loss of Aaron?
  • Billy Coyote is Bebe's only real link to her past. Who is Billy Coyote? What's he mean to Bebe? What does his reappearance in Bebe's life mean to her? Do you believe him when he tells Bebe that Aaron treated her badly?
  • Bebe's pregnancy comes as a surprise to her. What was her reaction to the news? What is your opinion of her response?
  • When she visits Jake in the VA hospital, Bebe gives the Kitty Hawk doll that Milla gave her to one of the patients. Why do you think she does this? Of what significance is the doll to Bebe?
  • Addiction plays a powerful role in the lives of the characters in Pretty. What is Bebe's history with addiction? What is she looking for through her addictions? How is her addiction alike or dislike other characters' addictions (Billy Coyote's, for example)?
  • In one of the book's final moments, Jake crashes Bebe's graduation party armed with a gun, which Bebe ultimately coaxes away from him. What has Bebe learned at this point in the book? How does she see Jake now? How has Bebe changed?
  • By the end of the book, Bebe finally reaches San Francisco. What future do you see for Bebe? What kind of mother will she be? What did reaching San Francisco mean to her?

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Pretty 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Susie_Kline More than 1 year ago
Pretty is the story of Bebe. The cover describes her as: BeBe Baker is an ex-everything: ex-stripper, ex-Christian, ex-drug addict, ex-pretty girl. What BeBe does very very well is tell her story. As she recovers from the death of her lover in a horrible car accident that left her hands and legs scarred, she struggles. She pulls herself through the days until she is finished with beauty school and through the nights as she tries to follow the rules at the half-way house where she lives. She uses her relationship with a schizophrenic resident of the men's half-way house as a distraction. Lauren's writing is incredible. I ended up marking passages in the book so I could share them! Here's my favorite: Mrs. Montano looks disturbingly like pictures I've seen of John Wayne Gacy when he dressed up like a clown. She appears to be wearing a giant beach ball costume, with only her dwarfed hands and feet sticking out. Her hair is a lacquered auburn helmet, the exact shade favored by beauty school teachers the world over. Her makeup looks like a mean puppet face, with white foundation, an angry gash of red lips, rainbow-colored arches of frosted eye shadow highlighting the crepey skin of her eyelids, and two perfect circles of blush that sit unblended on her cheeks. The entire book is filled with descriptions like this. You feel the story as much as read it. Lauren effortlessly weaves the story of the past with the story of now. Her characters are life-like and three dimensional. I hope you read this book. If you'd like to win a copy, please comment below! I'll draw the winner on Friday, September 23, at 5pm CST. So get your entries in before that! Good luck! This review originally appeared on my blog, Motherhoot.
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AnneBender More than 1 year ago
PRETTY follows Bebe Baker, a young woman coming to terms with her boyfriend's death and her rocky journey to sobriety. Bebe is an ex-everything: ex-stripper, ex-Christian, ex-drug addict, ex-pretty girl. It's been one year since the car accident that killed her boyfriend left her scarred and shaken. Flanked by an eccentric posse of friends, she is serving out a self-imposed sentence at a halfway house, while trying to finish cosmetology school. Amid the rampant diagnoses, over-medication, compulsive eating, and acrylic nails of Los Angeles, Bebe looks for something to believe in before something - her past, the dangerously magnetic men in her life, her own bad choices - knocks her off course again. -------- Pretty is a book I won't soon forget. Bebe is not someone to pity, but rather someone to watch. All her life she has been searching for who she is. She has been born again and again and is ever hopeful that one day it will stick. Except for the ex-everything et al., I completely relate to Bebe. Who hasn't thought about how their life should have been, could have been, should be, could be. Bebe is all about hope. She never loses hope even when she thinks it is all hopeless. This is not a book about the privileged or the semi-privileged nor is it about the under-privileged. Pretty is about finding one's way in life, regardless of the path we choose. One wrong turn does not mean game over. There is always another road just waiting to be taken. Disclosure: As a member of Global Influence, I was sent a free copy to review. As always, my opinions are 100% my own.
ellengerstein More than 1 year ago
What is right about this book - it's very hard to make someone like Bebe sympathetic to the reader while still portraying her as a flawed individual who didn't always do the right thing and continues to make mistakes. The author accomplishes that quite naturally. You don't go into this book expecting to be a feel-good story, and it isn't. Bebe is not living an easy life and sometimes the book doesn't let up in regards to her misery. Addiction and recovery are major things that shouldn't be glossed over and this book doesn't do that. She's a genuinely talented writer. I'm now eager to check out her first book, Some Girls, which is a memoir subtitled "My Life in a Harem". Uh huh. That's right. Should you read this book? Maybe. If you're looking for something light and fluffy, no. If you want to make a commitment to a topic that isn't pleasant much of the time, but has some really great bits of prose that I wish I had written myself, dive right in. It's not going to be for everyone, but I think if you're into something a little darker than most popular fiction, give Pretty a try. Some reviewers on Amazon suggest that teens could read this book but I think it's more appropriate for the 19+ crowd. As a Global Influence Blogger, I was provided a free copy of this book to review.
lesleypeck More than 1 year ago
I just received the book yesterday. UPS was having issues. :( But I did start reading it and am about half way through. All I can say is WOW. This book is riveting. It's just amazing. I find it hard to put into words just how I feel. It seems very real. You find yourself wanting Bebe to do better and overcome. Truly emotional.
R-Jolly More than 1 year ago
This is an incredibly sad, yet powerful story about a person who struggles with guilt, ADD, chemical dependency, and so much more. She aims to stay clean with the end goal of graduating from Cosmetology school. The title of this book is compelling because her struggles are as much internal as they are external. She is scarred physically and emotionally from a tragic accident and finds support in a halfway house so she can try and work through her addiction as well the emotional scarring from unhealthy relationships (one that was on a downhill spiral before the accident claimed her beau and her current run with the schizophrenic). It's a difficult read. Grim and sobering. Having personally volunteered in a halfway house, Bebe's story isn't uncommon. People need a lot of support to see themselves as worthy of the good things they seek. Though it would be a great novel to introduce a teen to the harsh realities of an imperfect world, parental guidance is definitely advised. A reader who has gone/is going through Cosmetology school may also have some appreciation to its references to certain techniques, as I certainly did not. If anything, one should come away with a deeper appreciation or understanding of the conflicts experienced by the deeply troubled. Disclosure: As a Global Influence Blogger, I was provided a free copy of this book to review and giveaway.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Beth "Bebe" Baker worked at Rudy's in Toledo when Aaron the horn player on tour with jazz star Billy Coyote enters the dive. He had three things going for him and one negative. The positives are the horn like Bebe's pop, his being very tall like she is, and his kiss. However, he also seems tentative as if he cannot play the final note. Bebe hops on the tour bus as it leaves Toledo. In Los Angeles the band becomes marooned. Bebe becomes a stripper while Aaron's drug use increasingly gets out of control until he dies in a car crash that leaves her physically scarred and emotionally damaged. Over the next year Bebe goes to rehab vocational facility while attending beauty school. As she tries to reinvent herself by staying clean and grieve her hero, Bebe also sees schizophrenic Jake. This is an intriguing character study of a woman who makes bad choices on her life as she seems to repeat her errors. Bebe is a fascinating protagonist who though she goes to school and sees another man, has not moved passed her loss of Aaron. Besides some sympathy over his death, readers will not empathize with Bebe as every time she takes a big leap forward, she follows up with gigantic leaps backward. Readers will appreciate Jillian Lauren's look at a complicated individual who believes graduation will prove her savior. Harriet Klausner