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Beauty Shop for Rent: Fully Equipped, Inquire Within    by Laura Bowers order for
Beauty Shop for Rent
by Laura Bowers
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2007 (2007)

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* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

The teenaged years can be fraught with insecurity as adolescents try to find a place for themselves in the world. Laura Bowers creates an uncannily realistic depiction of the ups and downs of this turbulent time in her debut novel, Beauty Shop for Rent ... fully equipped, inquire within. Abbey Garner is trying to escape the curse that the women in her family seem to be under: every single one of them was a pregnant teen. Since Abbey believes the problems they suffered were do to their dependence on men for money, she has vowed to become a millionaire by age thirty-five and then worry about finding a man.

Abbey has steadily been working towards her goal ever since her mother left her with Granny Po (her great-grandmother Polly) four years ago. Since then, Abbey has been working in Granny Po's beauty parlor which is mainly populated by the Gray Widows, her great-grandmother's group of friends. However, Abbey's world begins to change drastically when Gena, a smart and hip young beautician/business woman, inquires about renting the shop. Soon, Abbey finds herself learning more about running a business and not letting life's problems get her down, as she spends time with Gena to the consternation of Granny Po, who does not want to see her shop modernized.

When the shop opens, Abbey's life starts to change for the better until her mother unexpectedly shows up on Granny Po's doorstep on Christmas Day. Abbey has been waiting for this for the past four years, but now the day has come, she is not sure she is ready. Abbey does not know who to turn to: her mother who has never been there for her, her great-grandmother to whom she has become very close, or Gena who is becoming like a mother to her. It is time for Abbey to decide what she really wants to do with her life and to carve her own path in the world.

Abbey is a very realistically portrayed teenager who makes all the silly little mistakes common to teenagers when it comes to family, friends, and the opposite sex - mistakes that always seem like such a big deal at the time. This would sometimes leave me angry at Abbey for making mistakes that I made as a teenager (as I now know their outcomes). Of course, Abbey did not have that foresight, so had to make her own errors. These foibles make Abbey incredibly human and should help readers connect with her on a deep level.

Bowers also does a good job of hiding the ending. Throughout Beauty Shop for Rent, I was trying to figure out how it would end, but was never really sure until I closed the book. Since many young adult novels have typical endings, one that was happy - but not so smooth - was a nice change, even if it's not typical summer reading fare.

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