...Harding’s new novel, Her Pretty Face, unfolds through multiple narratives and flashbacks. There’s Frances, a fierce mama who enrols her son, Marcus, in a private school after he is diagnosed with ADHD and oppositional defiance disorder. Her hopes for a fresh start are quashed after a disturbing schoolyard incident involving Marcus, and both mother and son find themselves ostracized by the school community; in particular, by the yummy-mommies whom Frances daydreams of harming in creative ways. Frances’s isolation is relieved when she meets new-to-town Kate, who is wealthy, model-beautiful and equally disdainful of the school’s elitism. The two bond quickly, as do their sons ... Her Pretty Face is a work of fiction that probes the complexities of women’s friendships, and not a retelling of a violent story.
...Kate’s son, Charles, is Marcus’ only friend, so the two mothers are drawn even closer together. Both women have a secret, but only one of them is the notorious Amber Kunik, who served time for her part in a brutal murder 20 years ago ... The reader never knows quite whom to trust as the past and present unfold. The characterization of the two overweight characters—as pathetic outcasts—is problematic. Still, the tony setting and the slowly revealed secrets make this a good read.
Novels centered around toxic female friendships are a dime a dozen these days, and Robyn Harding’s Her Pretty Face is another book that covers this all-too familiar topic. It doesn’t do anything ground-breaking, but it’s an enjoyable read all the same ... Her Pretty Face is billed as a psychological thriller, but it didn’t quite feel like one to me. Instead, it had a women’s fiction vibe with a bit of a mystery thrown in for good measure ... There’s one thing about the narrative structure of the book that didn’t make total sense to me. We see most things through Frances’ lens, but there are a few chapters from the point of view of Kate’s teenaged daughter, and I found those chapters to be kind of jarring...I never felt fully invested in the secondary plot-line, which simply isn’t very compelling ... Her Pretty Face is a quick and easy read, and I blew through it in a little over a day. It isn’t the most gripping book I’ve picked up this year, but it ended up being an enjoyable way to spend a few hours on a lazy summer afternoon.