Title: The Art of Getting Stared At
Author: Laura Langston
Publisher: Razobill Canada
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Sixteen-year-old Sloane is given the biggest opportunity of her life—a chance for a film school scholarship—but she has less than two weeks to produce a video. She also has to work with Isaac Alexander, an irresponsible charmer with whom she shares an uneasy history.Then comes a horrifying discovery: Sloane finds a bald spot on her head. The pink patch, no bigger than a quarter, shouldn’t be there. Neither should the bald spots that follow. Horror gives way to devastation when Sloane is diagnosed with alopecia areata. The autoimmune disease has no cause, no cure and no definitive outcome. The spots might grow over tomorrow or they might be there for life. She could become completely bald. No one knows.Determined to produce her video and keep her condition secret, Sloane finds herself turning into the kind of person she has always mocked: someone obsessed with their looks. She’s also forced to confront a painful truth: she is as judgemental as anyone else…but she saves the harshest judgements for herself.
On a personal note...
Before I get to my review of Laura Langston’s The Art of Getting Stared At, the people at Razorbill Canada asked that I share one thing that I wish I could tell my high school self about body and self image. It hasn’t been all that long since I’ve been in high school (I graduated 5 years ago), so I thought this would be pretty easy to do, but it’s not really the case.
Looking back, I had a pretty good high school experience, but like everyone, I had my insecurities and my concerns with self-image. I was an athlete in high school, I ran track and cross-country from grade 7 all the way until I graduated, so I wasn’t concerned with body image as I was with self image. As cliché has it is, I would tell my teenaged self not to worry so much about what other people think and to just be happy. In middle school, I was the girl who always had her nose in a book and didn’t really have all that many friends. Once I got to high school, I had a good group of friends but I always seemed to end up hanging out with the guys more than the girls. Because of that, I would find myself questioning why I had more in common with guys than with girls. I would worry that I wasn’t being enough of a girl, that there must be something weird going on with my if I didn’t really get along with girls. And what other people would think about the fact that I was always hanging out with guys.
In hindsight, there were better things I could have spent that much time thinking about. But at the time, that felt like such a big concern. So that’s what I would tell my teenaged self, to stop focusing so much on what other people might think about who I hang out with, and instead enjoy the fact that I have the great friends I do have. Those friends turned out to be some of my best friends today, and for that I couldn’t be more thankful.
And now for the actual review...
When I first heard the premise for Laura Langston’s The Art of Getting Stared At, I was intrigued. It seemed like it had the potential to be a powerful book about our ongoing concerns and insecurities when it comes to self and body image. After reading it, I can safely say that this is a book with a strong message that rings loud and clear.
Sloane has always had one goal: to go to film school. When a video she produced goes viral on YouTube, Sloane gets the opportunity of a lifetime. If she produces another video, in the hopes of getting a film school scholarship. She will do anything to get that scholarship, even if it means working with Isaac Alexander, the boy with who she shares an uneasy history. But just when it seems like her dreams will be coming true, Sloane discovers a bald spot on her head. Soon, Sloane gets diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder causing her to lose all her hair. Though she always prided on not worrying about her looks, Sloane become horrified at the idea of people finding out she is going bald. Determined to hide her condition from everyone at school, does what she has to in order to finish her video and keep her diagnosis a secret. But when everything falls apart, Sloane faces a difficult decision: give up on everything she’s ever hoped for, or accept her fate and finish her video.
When I started reading The Art of Getting Stared At, I knew what the story was about, I just didn’t know exactly how the subject matter would be dealt with. I’ll be honest and say that at first, I thought this story would revolve mostly around Sloane having to deal with being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. But the story ended up being a lot more than that. Sure, a lot of it was focused on Sloane coming to terms with everything that was happening to her. But it was also about how different people deal with their respective setbacks and how society puts so much emphasis on appearances. For that reason alone, The Art of Getting Stared At was a powerful book. It really showed than even when we try not to focus on the way we look just to make a point, it’s still focusing on appearances. Whether we want to or not, no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to get away from appearances. Throughout the book, Laura Langston contrasts the idea of appearance with the idea of beauty and shows that though we often associate one with the other, the two aren’t one and the same. Over the course of the book, that idea is embodied in Sloane and how she deals with her alopecia diagnosis and that’s what made her such an interesting character to read about.
Sloane was a very interesting to read about. In many ways, I was a lot like her when I was in high school. She was someone who prided herself on not worrying about what people thought of what she looked like, but when it came down to it, she was just like everyone else. Once she found out that she was most likely going to lose all her hair, she became focused on what people would think, on what she would look like with all her hair gone. Over the course of the book, it was interesting to see her growth, and how she was slowly coming to terms with her diagnosis. A lot of that came from support in places she didn’t expect it. It really enjoyed seeing her relationship with her Kim, her stepmother, as the two of them figured each other out and realized that there was a lot more to the other than they originally thought. The other person who ended up being really there for Sloane was Isaac and I wish I could have seen more of him, because I feel like there was so much more to him than I got to see. But from what I did get to see, Isaac was just the person that Sloane really needed.
Laura Langston’s The Art of Getting Stared At is the kind of book in which everyone can find something to relate to. But it’s also a book with a fantastic message about body and self image that should be read by everyone, regardless of what they think of appearances.