Monday, June 05, 2006

Goldie Reads Chick-Lit On A Dare, Part III

Warning: These stunts were performed by a seasoned professional. Please do not try them at home.

part I, part II

As I mentioned in part II, after finishing "Opal Mehta", I moved on to Megan McCafferty's books, because I had a blog post to write.

It was a lot of work.

At times, I had to take a break as I felt nauseous. But I could not put the book (or, rather, books) down. It was a scary feeling.

The story takes place in a suburban high school in New Jersey, but this is where the coincidences pretty much end. (Gee, it’s nobody's fault that both authors actually do live in NJ!) The main character is Jessica Darling, a highly intelligent girl who effortlessly rises to the top levels of the school hierarchy, while simultaneously going through various teenage issues and body changes. The plot is fast-moving, complicated, and all over the place, much like a malfunctioning roller coaster. The two books have a sequel - "Charmed Thirds", and "Something-Fours" is on the way (the actual title escapes me).

The author of the series, Megan McCafferty, has in the past written for Cosmo, ElleGirl, and a few other magazines of the same persuasion. It shows. Imagine three hundred pages of Cosmo. Now double that. Any wonder why reading the two novels was such hard work for me?

What I didn't like about the books:

1. The author is being subtly moralistic in a Cosmo/ElleGirl way. ("Girls, remember, a little alcohol here and there is fine, but don't do drugs, you can OD and then, ohmigod, you're dead." "Girls, remember, a little sex here and there is fine, but it feels so good if you wait for that special person, because, ohmigod, the sex is so much better after you've waited some." Etc, etc.)*
2. Way too much drama. You read and wonder, Can all these disasters actually happen to one person? I'm talking serious stuff, like friends and family dying. The spirit of a dead baby brother, passed away twenty years ago, haunts the family. The heroine faces massive betrayal from all sorts of family and friends. And her period wouldn't come!

But, most of all, I didn't like Jessica! It's hard to enjoy the book when its main character gives you the creeps.

Why Jessica gives me the creeps:

She claims she's smart, but she's not. Right at the beginning of the first novel, Jessica tells us that she is the smartest person in school, with an off-the-charts IQ, which of course adds to her all-around misery. But we have to take it pretty much at her word. For the majority of book One, she has nothing to show for it. (It gets a bit easier when she starts writing those editorials for the school paper.) She classifies herself as an "IQ" in the school hierarchy, which I guess has to be roughly equivalent to us geeks. But a geek she's not. No geek is close friends with everybody on the school's A-list; has the best-looking guy in school lusting after her; gets invited to all parties except sometimes she doesn't go because she feels rebellious. Geeks don't live like that. Heck, we wish we did. But, deep inside, we know that, if this high life were somehow made available to us, we'd be bored to death.

She claims she's a rebel, but she's not. It is almost like the author would genuinely like her characters to do something rebellious, but she doesn't know what the heck it would be. Case in point - in the second book, a girl in Jessica's school commits what the book implies is a major act of rebellion by publishing a weekly gossip rag in email format, where she distributes the latest news as to who sleeps with whom, who dumped whom, and so forth. Being a rebel that she is, she only sends her emails to the school's A-list and forbids her recipients to forward them to anyone. This is as un-rebellious as it gets. Did I mention that the girl does it all because she's "trying to be the new Jessica"?

She's catty. She repeatedly trashes a girl who, in turn, considers Jessica her best friend... luckily, the poor girl never finds out as all the trashing occurs behind her back. The two then bond and become close friends like nothing ever happened.

She's racist. Make no mistake, Jessica deeply respects the "Double As" - after all, to do otherwise would bring major legal trouble upon her creator. (Can you guess who the "double As" are? Took me a while. Hint, it’s not Alcoholics Anonymous.) She has never met an Asian or Latino person, so she's undecided about those. But, as far as everyone else goes, it's open season. Jessica waxes on poetic about "hirsute Hungarians" and "greasy Guidos", conveniently ignoring the fact that her high-school crush has, in fact, an Italian last name. Bottom line, if I went to school with Jessica, I'd stay as far away from her as I could and hope that the quasi-intellectual bitch would ignore me.

She ODs on TMI. I do not want to read about anyone's bodily fluids unless absolutely necessary, in any more detail that is absolutely necessary. I don't care how many orgasms Jessica had last night while she was sleeping. I don't care what her period looks like. Please spare me the gross details.

Redeeming qualities:

1. The author definitely has a sense of humor. If it wasn't for the strategically spaced witticisms (three per page, on average), I probably wouldn't have been able to finish the books.
2. Sadly, that's all I could come up with.

So, as one of the very few people who have actually read all three books, what do I think about this whole plagiarism issue? Who stole from whom? Which book, if any, needs to be pulled? Read all about it in the next (and last) installment.

* - this is my, very liberal, interpretation of the messages the novels are sending. This is in no way a direct quote. Please don't sue me! Please?

The Goldie has spoken at 3:21 PM

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