Fans of The Devil Wears Prada have been eagerly anticipating Lauren Weisberger’s follow-up novel (or at least some of them have). Weisberger herself has said that she’s been eager to revisit her beloved characters from her hit debut novel—even going so far as to say that she’s forgotten where her characters end and the film’s characters begin. And so Revenge Wears Prada was conceived. Unfortunately, it seems that the Prada brand is fading.
It’s been almost 10 years since Andy Sachs told Miranda Priestly to “fuck off” in Paris, and Andy’s life hasn’t turned out so bad. She is the editor-in-chief of the high glamour wedding magazine The Plunge with publisher Emily Charlton (yes, that Emily), who also happens to be Andrea’s current BFF. And she is about to marry the handsome, society darling Max Harrison. Yet she is still haunted by that damn ringtone (and rightfully so).
But there are some surprises lurking in Andy’s future. Since Weisberger (and even the novel’s inside flap) have been mum about what happens beyond the first chapter, I’ll refrain from many “spoilers.” Amidst a series of personal surprises, Andy faces a very important business surprise in the form of the devil herself, Miranda. Now the head of Elias-Clarke (and still editor-in-chief of Runway), Miranda is intent on adding The Plunge to Elias-Clarke’s catalog, a thought that gives Andy night tremors. Now Andy must face some life-changing decisions in a whorl of contradictory advice from her friends and family.
And therein lies the biggest problem with Revenge Wears Prada. Andy’s decision regarding Miranda’s acquisition of The Plunge is the backbone of the entire novel. Except that for Andy, it’s an easy answer: no. She never again wants to be working for Miranda, at her every beck and call and whim, losing all creative control of this magazine that she built from the ground up. Unfortunately, Andy is too meek, too people-pleasing to straight-up confront Emily about their conflicting ideas regarding the magazine’s future. Instead, she postpones the decision for over 200 pages, resulting in a very dramatic climax that comes far too late in the game to redeem the story.
While I enjoyed catching up with all the characters—and I especially enjoyed the budding friendship between Andy and Emily—the story itself gets lost in all the mess. Weisberger stalls Andy, inserting throwaway stories about celebrity brides being interviewed for the magazine that resemble her other novels more than the world of Prada. She does attempt to instill some of that Runway glamour into the novel, but those parties and events are weighed down by all of Andy’s insufferable fretting and rehashing of feelings. You want to just scream at her to make a decision (instead of standing there stuck “on the steps of the palace”).
There are certainly some great chapters intermixed with the bad that will appease and entertain fans of Weisberger and/or Prada, but the book certainly doesn’t feel cinematic enough to warrant it’s own filmic adaptation. And the title Revenge appears to be a misnomer as there is no one seeking malicious vengeance (even though I spent the entire novel predicting devious motivations for Miranda’s actions). Revenge Wears Prada is a disappointing sequel and a disappointing addition to Weisberger’s writing.
Posted by xoxojk on June 6, 2013
Emily Giffin’s latest novel is more of a family drama than a romantic comedy. Where We Belong centers around Marian Caldwell a successful TV showrunner (think Ruth in The Next Best Thing but prettier and on the East Coast) who is dating her executive boss, Peter Standish. But Marian is harboring a secret: when she was 18 she had a child and gave it up for adoption. When said daughter shows up on her doorstep one night, Marian’s life begins to fall apart.
Kirby, the daughter, has her own issues. Now 18, she’s feeling displaced in her home and around her family. She doesn’t feel like she fits in with her adoptive family anymore and her lack of ambition for the future drives her to discover her familial heritage. But as she soon learns, Marian told no one except her mother about her pregnancy, and Kirby’s appearance in her life causes her to face the consequences of that decision.
Giffin’s writing is always heartfelt and relatable. She taps into these characters and what their thoughts would be in this special situation. However, that doesn’t prevent the story from becoming cloying and juvenile. Kirby’s high school problems feel especially juvenile (some authors just can’t write convincing teenagers). Marian’s drama with Peter and her show also feel forced—just another way to complicate her already complicated life. Not until the two team up to find the father, Conrad, and reveal all to him, does the story become truly engaging.
Thanks to flashbacks in the beginning of the book, Conrad quickly becomes a more well-rounded character than Peter. Thus, Marian’s stray thoughts of Conrad, increase the reader’s hopes that she’ll take up with him; and, conversely, the reader’s dislike of Peter increases (even as he becomes actually likable halfway through the novel). However, because Conrad doesn’t truly appear until the final 100 pages, his potential as a love interest never fully grows to fruition, making the end of the novel feel slightly unresolved.
Although Where We Belong has some great moments and Kirby’s maturation throughout the novel makes her an eventually likable character, nothing really stands out in this novel as exceptional. After reading Griffin’s addictive novels Something Borrowed and its sequel Something Blue (which I fully endorse), this book was definitely a let down.
Recommended Chick Lit:
Posted by xoxojk on December 1, 2012
Poppy Wyatt has just lost her fiancé’s family heirloom emerald engagement ring and then her phone gets nicked. Luckily, she finds a discarded phone in the trash bin and gives that number to everyone in the hotel in case they find the lost ring. Clinging to that phone as her last hope, she becomes involved in the life of businessman Sam Roxton—the phone previously belonged to his incompetent PA and has important emails and messages in it. With a week before the wedding, Poppy is doing everything in her power to find the lost ring without having to tell fiancé Magnus Tavish or his parents.
This hilarious romantic comedy by Sophie Kinsella will have you giggling from page one all the way to the thrilling climax. Told in the first person by Poppy—who has included her asides in the form of footnotes—you quickly learn the trials and tribulations involved with sharing a phone with a complete stranger. As she snoops into Sam’s life, she becomes so embroiled in his office drama that she fails to notice the drama enfolding in her own.
Kinsella has written an addictive chick lit novel that sucks you in before you even realize it. Drawing inspiration from classic Jane Austen characters—whether purposefully or not—you’ll find it impossible not to fall in love with these characters. Add this to your summer reading list before the season ends!
Posted by xoxojk on July 31, 2012
In Jennifer Weiner’s latest outing, The Next Best Thing, she tackles the world of Television (a world she has recently visited while creating the short-lived sitcom State of Georgia). Weiner’s heroine this time is writer Ruth Saunders whose physical flaw isn’t being overweight—like Cannie in Good in Bed—but lies in her scarred face from a traumatic accident she suffered as a child.
Despite the glaringly obvious symbolism of being physically deformed in the shallow world of Hollywood, this breezy beach read is a great chick lit romp. Ruth’s script gets picked up for a pilot and eventually a show, giving readers an inside look at how these shows are produced while also offering up many of the same criticisms of the industry touched on in Top of the Rock. Her career storyline is populated with one-dimensional characters and feels predictable until the end when an almost-jaded Ruth attempts to do something unconventional (those last chapters made up for all the other flaws in the book).
Her romantic life, however, is dull. After getting romantically burned by her first office romance, Ruth overcompensates with her second one. Dave has a physical deformity to match Ruth’s—he’s paralyzed from the waist down—and even amateur readers can tell that they’ll get together in the end, no matter how many misdirections Weiner throws in. (Although she does give readers a kinky sex scene to fill that Fifty Shades of Grey void.)
Predictability is an inevitable hazard in the chick lit world (just like in rom-coms), and it is hard to begrudge a writer for that considering she was able to put a huge smile on my face at the end of the book. Weiner also plays with expectations in her exploration of settling for the next best thing. Ruth begins to see that the path to realizing her dreams is full of compromise, and she accepts that she’ll have to settle for less than the best. This thematic examination actually lowers the readers’ expectations, giving Weiner the perfect opportunity to pull a reversal of fortune twist in the final stretch.
In this case, the end does justify the means, and The Next Best Thing is really the next best thing to read this summer. (The best thing to read is, of course, Gone Girl.)
Posted by xoxojk on July 22, 2012
I was enthralled with The Cranes Dance by the end of chapter one. Meg Howrey beautifully utilizes the first person narration style to tell the story of ballet dancer Kate Crane who is dealing with a crazed younger sister (who happens to be a better dancer than Kate); a recent neck injury (that leads to her popping her sister’s Vicodin); and a bad—at first—breakup with her longtime boyfriend (but she’s better off without him!).
After you get past Kate’s sarcastic, critical explanation of Swan Lake, Kate delves into a stream of consciousness tale about her life up to that moment and how she’s dealing with the traumatic things that have happened to her. Her increasingly suicidal sister Gwen has an incident resulting in a mutilated leg. Kate sends her off to their parents so they can deal with her. She feels intense guilt about how she’s treated her sister, and refers the reader to so many different incidents so they can cast judgment on her. But once you’ve been sucked into her psyche, it’s hard to judge her too harshly.
Howrey’s prose style was deeply reminiscent of Bret Easton Ellis (especially the run-on sentences that cropped up). Her nonlinear story felt more like a collection of moments (great and small) held together by the narrator. Kate was especially easy for me to relate to not just because she made references to Lost, the Oz books, and perfectly incorporated the term “cunt-off” into the story—and even an Alice in Wonderland epigraph!—but also because her dry sense of humor and ease with language puns made it so enjoyable to read (and kept me up into the wee hours of the morning because I could not put it down).
As Kate begins to rely on the Vicodin too much in dealing with her neck pains, she begins to grow detached from the world around her—she soon resembles American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman. Her extensive life as a dancer seeps into the rest of her life as she continues to use the gestures she previously mocked. “I made the gesture for fondness, cupping his face with my hands.” Her friend Mara begins to grow worried about her, and when confrontations occur, the reader begins to wonder what tragedy might unfold by the end of the story (one can’t help but think of the dramatic events depicted of ballerinas in Black Swan).
As a former dancer, Howrey easily depicts the world of dance and uses the terms so vividly that the reader can easily imagine the dances coming to life. And, while this may seem like a cheap ploy to capitalize on the increasing pop culture obsession with ballet (see also: Bunheads, Breaking Pointe), The Cranes Dance is definitely worth reading. And I’ll definitely be taking Kate’s advice and not let my children take up ballet.
Posted by xoxojk on July 11, 2012
The titular Red Book is Harvard’s way to keep the alumni connected to each other. Every five years, graduates enter updates about their lives in anticipation of meeting again for their upcoming reunion. This book finds our four heroines (graduates of the Class of 1989) meeting up for their 20th year reunion.
You would think a book about four women who were the “best” of friends in college would involve lost of fun adventures with the gang, but this novel rarely puts all the women in the same room together on the weekend of their reunion. We never get the sense of their chemistry as friends (there are not Sex and the City diner sex talks or Desperate Housewives poker games). Instead, author Deborah Copaken Kogan weaves complicated and indulgent stories about four women who just happen to know each other.
All four women are facing cliché unhappiness in their lives, and the setting of their great, old school of Harvard teaches them to refocus what’s left of their lives on being happy. Addison is a spoiled housewife and wannabe artist in a loveless marriage who faces bankruptcy. Clover (the stock African American character) has rushed into a marriage with a man who doesn’t want to have kids, so she steals sperm from her college ex-boyfriend. Mia has a happy marriage to a famous film director and is raising four wonderful children, but her yearnings to return to the stage have cast doubts on her life choices. And plain Jane (a Vietnamese girl adopted by an American family who now lives in Paris), struggling with her mother’s recent death from cancer, learns that her mother, deceased husband, and all other men in her life have cheated on their spouses.
The first third of the book is a pure recounting of each character’s entire lives up to the point of the reunion. The book continues to weave remembrances and excessive inner monologues into the story to distract from the lack of action. Kogan uses these inner monologues to address her thoughts on current events—if you consider 2009 current—and various stances on morality and mortality. Though there are some great moments when Kogan’s critique of pop culture resonates, they are mostly lost in the convoluted storytelling.
It could be that I’m just too young to sympathize with these older women (it’s been 2 years since I graduated college, not 20), but nothing about these characters feels genuine. They come off as contrivances for a clichéd story about following your dreams. The entire plot of the book can be found in the opening and ending Red Book entries by the characters (don’t get me started on how the three annoying characters have happy endings and the one character I managed sympathy for gets a crapshoot of an ending).
The Red Book tries to be so much that if fails to be anything at all.
Posted by xoxojk on June 21, 2012