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Themes

Some people go beyond looks when formulating a first impression. They try to understand what someone does and what they stand for. You know, their character. Lena is not one of those people. Not only is she a gullible teenage girl in America—a culture obsessed with looks—she's also a first-person narrator. And one of the most economical ways to describe people when they first appear on the page is by, you guessed it, their appearance. However, Lena goes a bit further than just objectively describing other characters. She often tells us whether she approves of their appearances or not. Even when it comes to herself, the answer is most often: not. This girl's a harsh critic. If shows like Fashion Police weren't banned in Lena's world, Joan Rivers would have a worthy successor in Lena.

Questions About Appearances

  1. Is Lena shallow? Why or why not? What about Alex?
  2. When Alex says that Lena is beautiful, does he mean physically, or something else?
  3. Does Portland appear, at first, to be a utopia? Or are its flaws immediately apparent?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Lena's so big on appearances because she's a teenage girl who, because of her totalitarian culture and/or her own predispositions, is really insecure. And she's never been around boys before, so of course they're a big deal for her.

Lena doesn't have much going for her in the way of character—she's selfish, she steals, she has no convictions, she changes her mind constantly—so evaluates people on something more superficial: their looks.

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