Untitled Beauty, by C.E. Wilson

I’ve read a few of author C.E. Wilson’s books over the past twelve months or so. She’s got a vivid imagination, she’s incredibly prolific with books coming out frequently, and she creates provocative worlds, characters, and situations. I have enjoyed all the books I’ve read of hers so far. A few months ago, her book This Is Me came out, and I downloaded it onto my Kindle immediately but haven’t yet gotten around to reading it. Then, she released another book, and I figured I should read one of them before I was too backlogged.

Then again, doesn’t every avid reader have a backlog of books to read?

Anyway, in her previous books, she wrote about characters of different sizes. Sometimes the main character found themselves in a foreign world of giants. Sometimes the main character found that they were tiny in our normal world. And sometimes the main character found her height was changing. Untitled Beauty is the first book of hers I’ve read where there wasn’t a disparity in size of the main characters.

But there sure was a disparity in the stature of the main characters. In this case, I mean social stature.

The book takes place in a reasonable facsimile of present-day Earth—or perhaps the not-so-distant future. There are cars, trains, and pizza. However, there’s a clear distinction in class based on physical appearance. Children and young adults are assessed at certain times in their lives and classified as either a Beauty (the top class) or a Potential. Within the Potentials, people are rated on a scale of one to twenty. Potentials can be sponsored by the Beauties and can, in some cases, be surgically altered to become a Beauty. Meanwhile, the Potentials often live subservient lives, are rarely referred to by name, and are sometimes treated like pets.

Wilson has previously written about a dystopian society within our present day or close to it Earth before in the exceptional The Boy with Words. And she’s tackled the idea of humans being viewed and even sold as pets in To Nowhere. In that case, the main human character had wandered through a portal to another world where giants lived. To the giants, the humans were small and pet-like, and because it was a full-fledged fantasy story, the idea made for a unique adventure.

In Untitled Beauty, I was somewhat uncomfortable with the treatment of main character Grace—Eleven, as she is called by her potential rating. She is purchased by Mr. Paulson, ultimately to assist his daughter Celia. He puts Grace through some nasty housetraining, including having her chained in the garage like a dog on a leash and having her wear a remote-controlled shock collar. It’s extremely demeaning, yet it’s also utterly terrifying given the unfortunate fact that such human trafficking exists in our real world.

Dystopian worlds have become a YA staple, and the characters are teens. Eventually Eleven meets Celia’s boyfriend Reese, once a Potential and now a trainer of Potentials. He and Grace develop a relationship which works for the most part. She rightfully has trust issues with Beauties and questions his motives a bit too often, but he behaves in contradictory manners enough that her trust issues may be justified. I won’t spoil where their relationship leads, but I wasn’t particularly surprised by the ending.

In her previous works—the two I’ve already mentioned and The Promise—Wilson provided unconventional, open-ended resolutions. They worked very well for those stories, as they made the reader ponder the implications for the characters in terms of the underlying messages of the stories. Here, her resolution is much more conventional such that it stood out for me when compared to her other work. Also, the book is billed as the first in the Somewhere-in-Between book series, though I’m curious what that means given the resolution.

It’s clear that Wilson is a talented writer. Her worlds and ideas are intriguing. Her characters are flawed enough to be realistic. And there’s nothing structurally wrong with the story. It just wasn’t my favorite of hers, so I’m giving it THREE AND A HALF STARS.

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Untitled Beauty is available at Amazon.

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