This installment of the Belles series starts with the Monroe family on an Oprah-like TV special talking about their reactions to the news that Izzie is Bill’s daughter. Despite appearing to be taking everything in stride, inside, Mira and Izzie are both pretty distressed over their father’s lies. This, however, brings them closer together, and makes them team up to fight off the rumours, messes, and crazy of Emerald Cove.
In Winter White, the girls are getting ready for cotillion and their debut into society. Of course, their debuts are fraught with challenges. In the previous book, Mira stood up to her former best friend (aka evil beyotch), Queen Bee Savannah. As a result, Mira is a bit of an outcast at school, and she really has no friends, although she starts to get closer to scholarship kid and fellow art enthusiast Kellen. Meanwhile, Izzie is adjusting to life in EC, but still feels like an outsider. This isn’t helped by the fact that her crush Brayden doesn’t seem to want to stand up to his family and show that he wants to date her.
All of this happens in the shadow of cotillion, which includes etiquette, dancing, and other classes, but also pretty white dresses, and crazy initiation antics – all culminating in a big event with show-stopping dresses, family, and hearts on the line.
The strength of this book and series are the characterizations of Izzie and Mira, and their relationship. Everything else – the romance, the mean girls fighting – that’s all pretty stereotypical. The authenticity of the book – and what keeps me coming back – is in how Izzie and Mira learn and grow together.
The cotillion and initiation stuff was my favourite part of the book – we really got to see Izzie shine as a natural leader and as someone unafraid of taking risks. Meanwhile, I liked the fact that Mira didn’t just immediately go back to her friends or get accepted again. She had to go through a lot of trials, and she was pretty strong while facing them.
In the first Belles book, I really connected with Izzie. In this one, I enjoyed her growth, but I was also a bit annoyed by her constant feeling that she didn’t belong in EC, her immediate love for Dylan, Brayden’s rebelling sister (even though I could tell what Dylan was up to from the beginning), and her (dare I call it) whining about Brayden. For some reason, the Brayden character has never resonated with me, so I pretty much wanted her to dump him from the beginning. That said, he seemed to prove himself in the end, so maybe there’s hope for him and Izzie yet.
For me, Mira was a real star of this book. I loved how she learned more about Kellen, moved forward with her art, and learned more about who she was, but never forgot to show the kindness and generosity that she grew up with as a Southern belle. I loved how she was just as mad at Bill as Izzie was, and how they seemed to face everything together. And have I mentioned that I really like Kellen?
Frocks – Calonita peppers her books with real-life designers and fashion, which I LOVE.
OC-like parties – This is a big reason why Calonita’s writing feels like a movie or TV show to me – the awesome, catered parties where everything falls into place!
Girl power vs. mean girls – a classic combination, it was great to see Savannah get her comeuppance a bit in this book – but also great to see how Mira and Izzie took to heart the spirit of cotillion to become strong, sassy young ladies.
The Final Word:
Belles was very much an establishing novel, but in Winter White, I really felt like Jen Calonita and her characters came into their own. Calonita has an amazing way of making every scene feel like it could be in a movie or TV show: there’s an outsider, major scandals, big parties, great fashion and some awesome family/friend moments that make it all worthwhile. If you like The O.C. or Gossip Girl, this series is definitely for you.