One of the chief criticisms of chick lit is the shallow nature of the protagonists and their exaggerated screeching about appearance, boyfriends and (the omnipresent) shoes. On the surface, The Cinderella Pact, by Sarah Strohmeyer (author of the Bubbles Yablonsky mystery series), seems to be just such a book. Instead, it delivers a big, cheery story with enough fairy tale and froth to let us escape the mundane, and with enough intelligence to make it worthwhile. Nora Devlin has made a pact with two friends to once and for all lose the extra weight they are all carrying. These are not slightly chubby girls barely managing to squeeze into size eights; they're all well into W sizes, and too young to be so frumpy. As the pounds come off, Nora struggles with the changing perceptions of others, and learns that losing weight doesn't necessarily wave a magic wand over a life. Nora is an intelligent heroine worth cheering for, and The Cinderella Pact brims with insights on the difficulties of not being beautiful in a beauty-obsessed society, while never resorting to preaching. This is what chick lit is supposed to be.

Barbara Samuel writes novels from her native Colorado. Her latest book is Madame Mirabou's School of Love.

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