This goes to show how sexist I really am but I would not have known from the writing style that the female lead character was written by a guy. On par with Terry Pratchett in how real her thoughts and feelings are. So often when men write girls they make us one dimensional, and stupid. I have a hard time not getting angry when the main character can't find her way out of a paper bag.
Thankfully this main character while flawed is smart, generous and loving. She truly loved her mother, even though her mother was far from perfect. True to life there was just that little hint of anger and guilt mixed in, but the love was strong and real and I cried when her mother dies (this is not a spoiler as it happens in the first couple of pages).
Her best friend was wonderful. Someone everyone wishes that they had in their lives. Loyal, brave and just a little bit strange.
The prince of England is perfectly British and amazingly lovable from the first time he opens his mouth to gasp "You are so amazingly beautiful. Its appalling!" and takes care of her when she is crushed by the weight of her social responsibility.
There are many less admirable characters, but no one who is not incredibly real, who doesn't jump off the page at you and make you think. "I know someone just like that."
More difficult for me was the portrayal of beautiful people as super heroes of the modern world. Words used to describe her new beautiful self were things like "confident, magnetic, irresistible, a surreal goddess shaped rocket ship." When shes walking around the world after becoming beautiful she never has to use money or touch door knobs or even deal with the boring trappings of a mortal life, because armies of servants take care of everything. She describes how people step out of her way like water in front of Moses, how her world is a fairy tale of beautiful stuff and free perks, about how no one seems to begrudge her this because of her beauty. Although this may have been because everyone wanted a slice of her and it seems in some perverted way that beauty is almost the same as money. There were other moments like "This was when beauty became a bargaining chip, something you traded for something else." That made me vastly uncomfortable.
Although the author never dwells on the darker aspects of our cultures obsession with beauty and wealth, I felt it lurking under the luxury liner of the Titanic floating on the icy depth of the Atlantic ocean. Thankfully unlike that ill fated ship this story comes through the icebergs unscathed. It is blindingly magical and delightfully fun, without ever being silly or vapid. The descriptions of everyone are laugh out loud as are the action sequences.
It's a book meant to be read aloud.