Beautiful Americans by Lucy Silag

Beautiful Americans - Lucy Silag

From the blurb: Pretty Little Liars meets My So-Called Life in this story of four American teens in Paris and the scandals that haunt each of them. Given that I have zero experience with My So-Called Life and just a minimum of Pretty Little Liars - gave up after watching the first season, haven't read the books - I'd like to say this: Beautiful Americans is basically Gossip Girl minus the money, and set in France. It's the same bratty, woe-is-me characters living it up in France, never considering there might be consequences for their actions.

Some basic plot: Alex, PJ, Olivia, and Zach, four high school students are spending a year studying in France. Alex is moving away from her mother to the country in which her parents met, and where her father now lives. She's spoiled, whiny, and wants everything to be like the movies. Olivia is the dancer who hopes this trip will help her get into college (the same college her boyfriend attends), but she's leaving her family back in the States, and she struggles especially with leaving her autistic brother behind. Zach comes from a small(ish) town where he feels the need to hide his sexual orientation (gay), and hopes a year in France will help him find himself, or at least live out his desires. PJ is running from something, something unknown to the reader for most part of the story. She doesn't know where her sister is, and she isn't in contact with her parents. These four people form relationships, some stronger than others.

There's no solid plot here except for PJ's, and it's a secret almost until the end (it's a cliffhanger, by the way). Most of the story is Alex and Zach living it up in France, drinking wine, partying, gossiping about boys. Olivia joins them sometimes whenever she isn't doubting herself and all her (or her parents') plans. PJ, who is the most interesting (which isn't saying much, trust me), is barely in the story at times. Instead we're stuck with Alex, who's biggest issue is when her American Express Card is declined because her mother decides to cut her off since Alex has spent almost all her money after a few months. Then there's also the instance where Alex sexually harasses a boy, but since she's a girl, it isn't portrayed for what it is. 

Alex climbs into a guy's bed while he's asleep. She does this more or less naked, and while he's still asleep, starts rubbing up against him. It's played off as some unfortunate event or a joke, but reverse the situation: Alex being a boy and climbing into a girl's bed, and there would be no joking about it.

(show spoiler)

 

The characters aren't well fleshed out due to the fact that there are four different POVs. They get about 80 pages each, which is far too little to make these characters stand out as individuals; it's sometimes hard to tell them from each other. Alex was the least interesting character, but everyone treats her like the special snowflake that she is. Olivia should've had a bigger role, explore her sense of guilt and also liberation in being away from her family, of not having the pressure breathing down her neck at all hours. PJ's story should've moved faster (and not use it as a cliffhanger). Zach, unfortunately, is stereotypical and his presence in the book feels more like he's only there to fill up some non-straight characters quota.

All in all, it's a good idea for a story, with four young confused people struggling, but the execution makes it come off as some poor soap opera with bratty and spoiled kids gossiping, partying, and only caring for themselves with a single thought about consequences.