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The Smart One    by Ellen Meister order for
Smart One
by Ellen Meister
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2008 (2008)
Paperback, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

Beverly Bloomrosen is plagued by the curse of being the middle sister. She's not perfect, popular and beautiful like her older sister Clare, and she's not nearly as interesting as wild and rebellious Joey, her younger sister. Beverly's simply known as the smart one. Unfortunately, her family's high expectations turn to bitter disappointment when Beverly announces she wants to follow her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher at the age of thirty-five. Her parents are distraught, but she still ends up moving in with them temporarily, while she waits to find out if she got the job in Las Vegas.

In the meantime, living at home isn't all it's cracked up to be. Beverly has to come to terms with her family and her convoluted relationship with her sisters. If that weren't enough, Kenny Waxman, Bev's teenage crush, returns to town. Oh, and then there's the body found in an industrial drum buried in the back yard of her parents' home ...

In The Smart One, Meister delves into the female psyche to discover just how much childhood roles define the adult lives of women. Beverly, who doesn't mind being known as the smart one, still envies her sisters even all these years later. For their part, Clare and Joey aren't happy with their labels, either. Now grown women, they've never been able to shed their reputations, and those labels continue to haunt them into adulthood. Jealousy, low-self esteem and constant sibling rivalry makes the sisters' relationship a complex and touching one.

Meister writes about family connections in an elegant and sentimental way. Although Bev, Clare and Joey don't always like each other, it's clear they always love each other. The book is both fast-paced and emotionally introspective, which is a difficult balance to get right, but somehow Meister pulls it off beautifully. The Smart One will resonate with every woman who's ever had a sister - or wondered what such a relationship would be like.

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