Books

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Cheeky: A Head-to-Toe Memoir’ by Ariella Elovic

c.2020, Bloomsbury
$26
256 pages

You hate your eyebrows.

Or maybe that should be “eyebrow,” singular. It’s like a six-inch caterpillar crawling above your nose, just one long unibrow and you hate it. You’re not in love with your hair on your head, nor on your legs or underarms. You could stand to lose a few pounds, buy new clothes, or find a new deodorant or, as in the new book “Cheeky” by Ariella Elovic, you could learn to love your body.

When she was six years old, Ariella Elovic was perfectly comfortable in her skin. She danced and played and ran without considering how she looked; wore swimsuits and comfortable, loose-fitting, unfashionable clothing without worry; and she barely even noticed her unibrow. But though her family never gave her reason to be ashamed, at some point during her preteen years, Elovic learned to hate her body.

Her mission two years ago: “to reclaim at least some of [the] confidence, feistiness, and joy” she felt as a child.

Mirrors were once a place to make funny faces until they “became the meeting place for myself and my inner critic,” says Elovic. She has a “round face” that she was self-conscious about, and she wasn’t happy with her smile. The evening she forgot to wax her brows before a date gave her a smidge of courage.

On a hot, humid New York City night, her “Yentas” (best friends) helped her realize that her hair was beautiful. She started developing in fourth grade and still can’t quite get over the fact of wearing bras every day for life; she was inspired by a Yenta to stop shaving her armpit and leg hair; and she has made her peace with food. There’s no shame in passing gas or using the bathroom, she reminds readers, and no need to be a “contortionist” anymore.

“Your body is yours to feel at home in,” she says and to, “enjoy, take care of, and love.”

While “Cheeky” is a fun book to read, and it’s message should resonate with any woman who hates shaving, wearing heels, hates tight clothing, tweezing and waxing, it’s not a book for just anyone.

It’s true that anyone can read what’s inside here (and many will benefit from doing so), the sweet spot, it seems, is an audience of women who are between the ages of roughly 16 and 30. Author Ariella Elovic speaks to that group with a sort of serious-fun manifesto for self-love, self-acceptance, and an end to senseless embarrassment that doesn’t dissolve into cutesy little-girl language or things we can’t talk about. Openness, honesty and a no-secrets tone, in fact, are the main thing, making this book feel as if you’re reading a long, illustrated letter from a BFF or wise big sister you haven’t seen for a while.

Be aware that that takes readers into dressing rooms and bathrooms and it doesn’t hold back, neither in word nor illustration. This book lives up to its name for the right reader — but for one who’s unprepared, “Cheeky” might raise eyebrows.

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