Welcome to the Decemberd 3rd review stop on the blog tour for Beauty and the City Chapter Magazine Chapter One, organized by YA Bound Book Tours. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for excerpts, other reviews, a guest post, and a giveaway!
Readers can enter to win the Beauty and the City Chapter Magazine Contest Here.
Sign up for the magazine here. It’s free!
Beauty and the City is a YA Romance novel being released in parts through Chapter Magazine, and lends its name to the Beauty and the City line of affordable, natural and cruelty-free makeup products. Find out more about the makeup here.
Beauty and the City
Genre: YA Romance
Beauty and the City is a contemporary love story about Milan, a young glamorous model who is hiding her disability even as she rises in popularity. Met with an internal moral dilemma, Milan finds herself at a crossroads. She wants to be the girl everyone seems to like, yet she knows there’s more. Underneath this quest for self-love is a complicated goal to reignite a love she can never quite get right.
Here’s How It All Begins…
The beginning of the end started the summer before senior year. Seventeen years old—a record year for me. I was just a girl. The only Milan on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Being the only anything in New York was rare. Like all girls, I had a secret. Being deaf was something I found easier to deal with when fewer people knew, so just before starting a new high school and after Mama’s accident, I reinvented myself. I left my hearing aid at home permanently, which made it difficult at times because I only had partial hearing in one ear to start with. Without my hearing aid, I really was in complete silence. Yet I had other skills that allowed me to communicate just fine. It wasn’t too soon after I started high school that I began modeling, and, well, the world looked at me in a way I sort of liked. But love—that was what confused me the most. I had found myself in a boy craze of the most peculiar predicament, in a tangled web that nearly took me under. They never warn you about love, and no magazine could ever do it justice.
Beauty and the City is a novel distributed in Free Monthly Chapter Magazines that feature the story.
The First Chapter
You’re welcome to read it for yourself! I’ll share my thoughts below.
(Or open it in your browser here)
My Rating: 4 Stars
The first chapter of Beauty and the City is an excellent start to what sounds like a very promising YA novel. I know we’re being told this is a romance, but there aren’t any romantic elements yet, so I can’t judge that aspect. If you told me this was going to be a contemporary fiction rather than a romance, at this point I would believe you. I’m not complaining and that’s not a bad thing, but hardcore romance lovers just know you’ll have to look for December’s issue at the earliest before we see where the romance comes in.
Chapter one does what we expect a first chapter to do. We’ve met our main character, Milan, and those closest to her at this point in her life: her brother Dimitri, her father (sort of), her late mother and a foster sibling (via memory scene), her modelling agent Lisa, and (briefly at the end) her grandparents. Milan is a rich kid and a successful model, but what she wants most is to fit in and be perceived as normal -something that’s even more difficult to do given that she’s deaf (residual hearing in one ear) and doesn’t want anyone in her new school and social circle to know about it. And her agent Lisa wants to set her up as a poster girl for deaf teens. Oh boy! This is going to get interesting.
Milan is an instantly relatable character, and I really feel the struggle in her sibling rivalry with Dimitri. I haven’t figured out yet how I feel about Lisa. It sounds like her mother was a sweet woman, and I hope the story continues to give flashbacks to times spent with her.
The reasons I’m not awarding a full five stars at this point are… complicated. Let’s start with the simple one first: scene transitions. Given that this is being published in a magazine with breaks for ads, changing background colours, etc. they really shouldn’t be relying on a page break as a scene transition. I was genuinely confused during the entire flashback scene about whether I was reading a flashback or if I had misunderstood and the mother simply lived in South Hampton with the grandparents and Milan only saw her during the summer. Thankfully the transition out of that scene acknowledges that it was in fact a memory, so the mystery was quickly solved.
The bigger issue is the way Milan’s deafness is being presented. She tells other characters and the reader several times during just this one chapter that she can lip read, as if that effectively replaces functional hearing. Less than half of all English words and sounds can be lipread, and that’s only in ideal conditions (good lighting, direct line of sight to the lips, speaker speaks clearly but without consciously trying to speak clearly – that actually messes it up more, etc.) In order for a skilled lipreader to get enough out of a conversation by lipreading, the other participant(s) in the conversation have to speak clearly, one at a time, directly in front of and facing the listener. I don’t believe for a second that “I can lip read” gets her through school and social interactions when she’s not telling people she’s deaf. At one point “I can lip read” enables her to understand what her brother said while she was looking at the side of his face. This girl isn’t lip reading, she’s mind reading. She also refers to herself as “hearing impaired” once while talking to Lisa. This is a huge no-no! The Deaf community largely rejects this term. To paraphrase a line from Switched at Birth: Deaf, hard of hearing, but never hearing impaired. We are not broken. (Yes, I’m keeping it we, my left ear doesn’t earn any participation trophies.) The fact that she has some residual hearing leaves this open for improvement, as the author(s) could start to have her internal dialogue explain the sounds she did hear or the other body language and contextual clues she’s picking up that aid in lip reading… but PLEASE stop making her read minds, and please use labels the Deaf community accepts.
Nothing in the magazine itself or in the media kit I’ve been given for this review feature names the author, all credit is being given to the magazine, so I can’t sleuth out the author and find out if they’re part of the Deaf community, but I have my suspicions that they aren’t.
Things I will emphatically applaud about the way deafness is handled:
– The other-ness Milan feels when people know she’s deaf and her desire to blend in rings so true. She’s put in all the effort to speak without the “deaf accent,” but if people know she’s deaf they hear it anyway, even though at this point it’s only in their head. People don’t know how to respond when she uses ASL. I feel that! It’s hard to be different.
– So far no sim-com! For the uninitiated, “sim-com” means simultaneous communication. Plenty of media likes to show people speaking while signing. This is set in New York, so even if it hadn’t been specified we can assume Milan is using Americal Sign Language (ASL), which is a completely distinct language with its own grammar and syntax. If someone were to vocalize what they’re signing it would sound like broken English. Some countries do have varients in their sign language systems that allow for sim-com such as Sign Supported English (SSE) which is where the speaker uses basic fragments of British Sign Language (BSL) to sign along with their verbal communication, but it is not the same as fluently signing in BSL. (To see examples of this, might I recommend the YouTuber Jessica Kellgren-Fozard.)
Overall I am quite intrigued and I do intend to keep reading as more chapters come out.
Did you like it too?
Sign up for the magazine here. It’s free!