Friday, April 18, 2008

book review: Jen Weiner does it again

It's way too early here in the Mountain time zone, but my brain never seems to get off Eastern time, no matter how far west I travel. Since I'm awake, I thought I'd tell you how I've been spending my hotel and plane time.

On impulse the other day, when I was flying out, I went into the bookstore and saw that Jennifer Weiner's Certain Girls was there. This is the long-awaited sequel to Good in Bed, picking up on the thread of Cannie's life almost thirteen years later. Fans like me will recall that Cannie made a cameo in Little Earthquakes, and seemed to be doing well. Things are a little tougher for her in this book, probably because she has a soon-to-be teenager on her hands. Cannie tells us that Joy has good genes:

She inherited the best things I had to offer—my olive skin, which stays tan from early spring straight through December, and my green eyes. Then she got my ex-boyfriend’s good looks: his straight nose and full lips, his dirty-blond hair, which, on Joy, came out as ringlets the deep gold of clover honey. My chest plus Bruce’s skinny hips and lean legs combined to create the kind of body I always figured was available only thanks to divine or surgical intervention.
It would have been a very different kind of book if Joy had shared her mother's weight issues, but the author probably figures most of her fans know how a story like that plays out. Cannie acknowledges this in the first chapter:

It isn’t politically correct to say so, but in the real world, good looks function as a get-out-of-everything-free card. Beauty clears your path, it smooths the way, it holds the doors open, it makes people forgive you when your homework’s late or you bring the car home with the gas gauge on E. Joy’s adolescence would be so much easier than mine.
Except that, as you will find out when you read the book, things aren't easy for Joy either. I won't give any more away here than you can read in the first chapter online, but Joy has to do a lot of soul-searching in the book. Surprisingly, Cannie has turned into a Supermom, micromanaging the details of her daughter's life, and Joy understandably feels smothered.

Cannie and Joy take turns telling us the story. The first chapters in Joy's voice feel a little strained, but in the later chapters I think that Weiner captures the awkward, push-pull feelings of adolescence well. The book hit a few false notes, but overall, I had to work very hard to keep from crying on the plane so that I wouldn't embarass myself. It was a perfect plane read, perfectly engaging. I got so lost in it that I actually had to look at my boarding pass to remember where I was landing. Although that may have something to do with the fact that I've earned more than 10,000 frequent flier miles already this year.

2 comments:

  1. oooh great review! :) i bought this last week but have yet to start, sounds like a goodun :)

    (10,000 miles!?! eeeeeeeeeek!)

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  2. i can't wait to read this book! glad to know someone enjoyed it! i also need to read little earthquakes!

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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07