9780152066437_p0_v1_s260x420Reviewed by Cal Cleary

Sydney Salter’s debut novel, My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters, follows Jory Michaels, a teenage girl getting ready for her senior year of high school. Faced with a gorgeous, talented family and a set of friends who’ve long since broken out of their ugly duckling phase, Jory despises herself for not being like everyone else around her. She consoles herself by nursing crushes on the school’s most unattainable young men and waiting for the day when she can afford to get plastic surgery and fix her massive nose, but neither fantasy world satisfies her for very long.

Salter’s writing is problematic in parts, as is to be expected from a debut novel. Jory’s constant reminders to us about her nose get tiresome fast, and it’s a concept Salter relies upon too heavily whenever the book’s thin plot needs time to amble or bring in some laughs. Fortunately, Salter abuses it less and less as the book progresses, instead turning to the more genuine drama between Jory and her friends and family, most of whom are surprisingly well-realized.

From her mom’s obsession with increasingly bizarre fad diets to her friend Hannah’s dreamy, uncertain spirituality, the characters quirks hit just this side of believable, easily played for both comedy and drama. As the book goes on and begins to flesh out the characters beyond the quirks by which we first know them, however, it hits on its most successful theme: everyone, no matter how beautiful, talented or charming, is trying to find themselves, and it’s a struggle that could take a lifetime. Though Salter wraps things up a bit too neatly, much of the story is rooted in that uncomfortable honesty.

At its best, My Big Nose chronicles the story of a girl with chronic low self-esteem with honesty and wit. At its worst, however, the book is self-absorbed and cajoling, trying too hard to find humor in dry self-loathing. The book’s lack of consistency and occasionally overblown melodrama may turn off some readers, but those who enjoy YA dramedy will find My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters a quick, agreeable read from a relatively promising new novelist.

For more information, please visit the author’s website.

Cal is a young, underemployed librarian and a frequent contributor to Read/RANT comic book reviews. He’s currently living in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, with his family and using the post-grad-school grace period to read and write as much as he can.