Over the next several days, Entangled Teen is exploring some of their YA “retellings” — books that take a different spin on classic tales. Today, I’m up to talk about Finding Perfect, a retelling of Pygmalion. For those who’ve read the book, you caught the Eliza Doolittle shout out, and I loved the idea of turning the story on its side a bit.
For anyone who’s seen Pygmalion (or My Fair Lady with the lovely Audrey Hepburn), Can’t Buy Me Love with Patrick Dempsey, or even Trading Places with Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, you know that makeovers can be powerful, and it’s not only the physical that changes. In all these cases, the main character(s) end up with a profound shift in their world view.
In Pygmalion, two older men who specialize in languages begin a little experiment. Professor Higgins bets he can take a girl from working class England and tutor her into behaving like a society lady, complete with accent change, etiquette lessons, and a new wardrobe. If she can run the gauntlet during a party with London’s elite, the bet is won. Eliza Doolittle does just that…and finds herself not fitting into her old life after the experiment is through.
In Finding Perfect, Ben is math genius from the wrong side of town. Paige, our Mr. Higgins, is given the task of making him over into someone the most popular girl in school might like. This isn’t as simple as changing up Ben’s wardrobe, as Paige quickly discovers. He needs an overhaul—including a new, more confident outlook. From a getting a great haircut to washing a car shirtless for Zoey’s benefit, Ben follows Paige’s instructions to move from supporting character to leading man.
Except—it’s not enough, as Ben figures out.
The more Ben tries to achieve “Zoey status” the more he realizes that he’d rather be himself—albeit with a better haircut—than try to be something he’s not. But he knows his current life isn’t what he wants, either. Working two jobs while staying on top of his homework has been tough. What he really wants is a chance to find a great future and do it his way.
For Eliza, it’s unclear where she’ll end up (in any version of the tale). She’s a fish out of water, but there’s a sense that it’s a temporary shift for her. One day she’ll fit into her new life, and be happier for it. For Ben, his path is right in front of him, and his metamorphosis at Paige’s instruction is exactly the kick he needed to climb the final hill. Both of them end up much farther along with the “experiment” than without, and meet a lot of new people who have their best interests at heart.
And, in Ben’s case, Paige gets his heart in return.
Looking for a few great retellings? Check out these YA books:
– Olivia Twisted and Olivia Decoded (Oliver Twist), by Vivi Barnes
– All the Broken Pieces (Frankenstein), by Cindi Madsen
– Such Sweet Sorrow (Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet), by Jenny Trout
– Wake the Hollow (Legend of Sleepy Hollow), by Gaby Triana
– Red (Little Red Riding Hood), by Alyxandra Harvey
– How Willa Got Her Groove Back (Pride & Prejudice), by Emily McKay
– Nexis (A Sci-Fi Cinderella), by A.L. Davroe