This young adult version of “Pretty Woman” shares many elements with the adult story: there is the rich, seemingly shallow guy, Caleb, who hires a pretty girl, Didi, to be his escort at summer parties, insisting that no feelings be involved (there’s even a no-kissing rule); the need to dress the benighted female in sumptuous clothes; the shock that she can hold her own in his social set; her refusal to take his money; and of course, the aha moment when he realizes he has fallen in love with her. (“Reluctantly he caught himself admitting Didi affected him more than he’d ever thought possible. It scared him. Yet in the pit of his stomach, a thrill mixed with his fear. What was happening to him?”) In the end, it will be no spoiler to fans of “Pretty Woman” to relate that in spite of all Caleb’s assets, it is Didi who rescues Caleb.
There isn’t any sex in this younger version, but a lot of purple prose nevertheless, replete with breathless longing, bulging muscles, tight, lean bodies, and an eventual kiss that was “hard, hot, and full of promises.” While no one claims Didi is a “Cinder-fucking-ella” she clearly is, and analogously, Caleb finds about Didi that “[e]ven the way she ate a fucking burger fascinated him.”
As for Didi’s past, she isn’t a prostitute, but something perhaps just as shameful – at least as far as Caleb’s father is concerned: Didi is bipolar. [Um, gosh – how can one even come up with a comment on that “equivalency”?]
Unfortunately, a movie version would have helped. We could have seen events unfold instead of reading bad prose descriptions of them, such as “Curses and giggles abounded.”
Then there is the inevitable nod to Jane Eyre: “It was as if an invisible string bound her heart to his, and no matter what happened nothing could cut the connection between them.” Too bad Charlotte Brontë never got royalties for that concept.
Evaluation: For teens not having been exposed to “Pretty Woman,” this modern YA combo of “Cinderella” and “My Fair Lady” may have broad appeal, but I was sorely disappointed at the quality (or lack thereof) of the writing.
Published by Swoon Reads, a division of Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of MacMillan, 2016