Saturday, June 21, 2008

"Certain Girls," by Jennifer Weiner

A follow-up to the smash hit Good in Bed, Certain Girls brings back Cannie Shapiro years later. Her mother is out of the closet, her daughter Joy is about to have a bat mitzvah, husband Peter is a successful diet doctor, sister Elle still begs for money, and ex Bruce is still smarting from Cannie's vicious "fictionalized" portrayal of him in her debut novel. Though to be fair, he started it by chronicling their sex life in a national magazine.

So Girls is the dual story of Cannie and Joy. Cannie struggles with her daughter's growing problems with grades and a negative attitude, along with Peter's desire to have another baby. Unfortunately, due to complications with Joy's birth, Cannie'd had a hysterectomy, which leaves the couple looking for a surrogate.

Joy is thirteen, self-absorbed, hateful to her mother, and completely unlikeable. While I can understand her need to find out more about the book her mother had written so many years ago, especially since it's so based on reality, Joy is just a brat. The things she thinks about her mother made me want to slap her. She begins acting out: shoplifting, lying, sneaking out of state to a party. Then she steals her mother's credit card, books a flight and fancy hotel, along with a car and driver, and hops a plane to California to find her grandfather, certain that her mother, aunt, uncle, and grandmother have all been terribly wrong about what a jerk the guy is. Oh, shocker, she finds out he is a jerk. But what kind of punishment does Joy get for this escapade? She gets the extremely expensive dress that she'd been whining about getting for her bat mitzvah. And grounded for a month. Boo hoo.

As if this wasn't annoying enough, the best character gets killed off. I'm so sick of writers using this as a plot point to finish off a book. It's unnecessary, cruel to the readers, and just stinks of manipulation.

2 stars

Saturday, June 14, 2008

"The Year of Disappearances," by Susan Hubbard

I've been putting off reviewing this book because it pains me to give a negative review when I so much loved The Society of S, its predecessor.

The Year of Disappearances picks up where Society left off, with 14-year-old Ariella (who can pass for 21) living with her mother in Florida, learning how she fits as a vampire in a human world. When a new friend disappears, suspicion falls on Ariella, whose best friend had been murdered only months before. With her incredible intelligence and maturity, Ariella is sent off to a private college by her mother to get away from the town's harassment. But a friend is murdered there, as well.

The story really has a lot of potential. How could it not, with Society's haunting prose and intelligence? But Hubbard just seemed bent on packing as many unnecessary elements into the plot as possible. Besides vampires and classes of vampires, which didn't bother me, there were also evil harbingers, sasas (demons that can take over animals or humans), black market drugs that humans think can turn them into vamps, and a (secret) vampire running for president. All of this is thrown in with the series of disappearances/murders taking place around Ari, and by the time that mystery is solved, the whole plot has just become so convoluted that I could care less.

Factor in this teenage girl dealing with being a vampire, having her first real relationship and thinking about sex, her friends missing or murdered, her father deathly ill, college at age 14 -- that's enough for one novel, don't you think? So I asked the 15-year-old, vamp-loving, book-devouring girl who regularly comes to the library what she thought of The Year of Disappearances.

"The author tried too hard," she said. And that best sums it up.

2.75 stars