The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty is the story of a group of friends who are struggling with the vagaries of creativity and the pain caused by the culture's overemphasis on physical beauty. Barb is a beautiful woman who dresses in a fat suit, an ugly gray wig, and unattractive false teeth because her best friend, a gifted chef, committed suicide in front of her and cited his unrequited love for her as the reason. Although he has been dead for years, she continues to receive letters from him suggesting that one of her friends has a dark secret. The doorman of her building constantly insults her--in graphic terms--whenever she leaves or enters the building.
Lily has an opposite problem. She is so ugly that the man she adores cannot even imagine being romantically attracted to her. A gifted composer, she tries to compose a song that will make her look beautiful in his--and the world's--eyes.
Their friend Georgia is a novelist who questions her talent. Penelope, who was kidnapped and kept in a coffin for three days, makes and sells ugly pottery, discovering she can make money through an unusual gift--the ability to hide the fact that the pottery is broken. When a customer touches a piece and it "breaks," the customer must buy it. Jack is a former police officer who was injured while rescuing Penelope from her kidnappers and now works part time at a retirement home, pretending to break up fights that the senior citizens stage so he will feel useful.
The group of friends engage in a variety of absurd activities, with some fantastical elements thrown in. One of the blurbs on the book's back cover describes it as a "philosophical farce." It certainly does have a farcical air and I think the author probably intended it as a philosophical examination of beauty, love, and creativity--but the examination is not very deep. It definitely did not resonate with me, but I can see girls in the 13- to 15-year-old range finding ideas worth engaging with.