Publication Date/Version: July 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Age Group: 12 and up
Received From: The Library
When Dara Cohen was little, she was a 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 choose 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 nearly all that she's ever taken for granted in order to figure out who she really is, and what family really means.
Dara Cohen was Little Miss Maine when she was young. But after gaining more than a few pounds, no one can believe her. When she tells about her experience in an English project, it's wildly misinterpreted and her parents pull her out of school. Dara, no longer willing to suffer under her parents' scrutiny, decides to visit her sister Rachel, the sister her family never told her about. Dara moves to her sister's goat farm and begins a whirlwind of a journey.
Based on her first novel, Megan Frazer has a wonderful career ahead of her. Secrets of Truth & Beauty was delightful. Right from the beginning I liked Dara. She seemed fun and friendly, just tired of always having to follow the rules and be a perfect child. Plus, her mom's always on her back about her weight, and she can't take it anymore. Because of these things, Dara moves to a little goat farm where her sister Rachel lives.
The farm, called Jezebel, sounded dreamy. It's one of those cute, homely places in a small town that sounds like a great town to grow up in. I was smitten. Dara quickly learns the lay of the land, and she becomes just another member of the farm. She helps with the daily tasks, making cheese and milking the goats. Rachel cooks amazing food, and the company's lots of fun.
Dara meets a lot of great new people, including Owen, the resident hottie. Too bad he's got a secret of his own about why he's at the farm. And when Dara learns a bit more about the farm, she'll see the reasons her parents were so upset with her sister.
I enjoyed this novel so much. It was touching and honest. It taught you never to judge before you get to know someone. The whole setting sounded wonderful and close knit. I loved Dara because she didn't feel bad about her weight, like everyone thought she did. She was never that upset about herself, but she did gain more confidence as the summer wore on. The secondary characters were great as well.
The only person I didn't enjoy was Dara's mother, an impossibly cruel mother who shows no compassion for her daughters. She tries to control Dara completely, attacking her for her weight. And as for Rachel, well, she doesn't even acknowledge her. After the incident, Rachel is no longer a part of the family. Dara's father might no seem much better, but I felt sorry for him. I believe he still loved both of his daughters, but he felt compelled to agree with his wife. It was a tough situation for him.
After it all, I was very happy with the ending. Dara made the right choice. Oh, and Rachel's love interest - how perfect! I was completely surprised and very happy.
Overall: Funny. Homely. Finding oneself. Family growth.
My Advice: Pick up a copy at your local bookstore or library. This was a wonderful book that will appeal to all girls.
Cover: I actually prefer the ARC cover, which isn't as bright, but more toned down. The idea in general is ok, but the cover models don't represent the characters at all. It's pretty but it doesn't work with the story.