Balancing and Why I read “Chick Lit”

Okay, so I have been on a “chick lit” kick lately. I feel the need to explain this. I read literature, I read the classics, in fact, I study the classics. Right now my students are reading Hamlet and The Great Gatsby. I re-read these every year and analyze every sentence, looking for something I may have missed, tracking themes, analyzing style, etc. So, if at night, when I get into bed and pick up a book to read and escape, I choose Confessions of a Shopaholic, I feel that it is okay. They’re fun and damnit, I like them. So with that said- I will now review two books I read this week of said genre.

images-52Confessions of A Shopaholic by Sophia Kinsella

Summary: Becky Bloomwood loves to shop. So much in fact, that she has wracked up a huge amount of debt and is being hounded by both her bank and her credit cards. She comes up with a plan- Cut Back. When plan CB doesn’t work out so well, she tries a new plan- MMM or Make More Money. However, she hasn’t quite figured out how to do this, all the while still spending money. The irony of whole situation is that Becky writes for a financial magazine, advising others on how to spend and save their money wisely. When Becky catches wind of shady banking deal, she has the chance to finally make more money and also expose Luke Brandon, they guy she can’t stop thinking about who bruised her ego when she thought they were on a dream date (shopping, of course) and it turned out they were buying gifts for his girlfriend. Will Becky ruin her chances with Luke in hopes of ending the nagging credit card collectors?

Review: Okay, I will admit, this book is absolutely mindless. And yet, I am already looking for the sequel on Bookmooch. Becky is an absolute idiot when it comes to financial matters, but there is something in her that I find likable (yes, I too have been known to spend money stupidly). She is rationalizes every purchase she makes in such a humorous way that I couldn’t help but saying, “Why yes, you did deserve that gray cashmere sweater.” Becky ignores the letters she receives from her collectors, stuffing them in drawers of throwing them into dumpsters when nobody is looking. In fact, we don’t read her reactions to these letters, instead in between chapters we get the response letters, which are quite humorous. Example:

Dear Ms Bloomwood:

Thank you for your letter of 2 March. I can assure you that our computers are reularly checked, and the the possibility of a “glitch,” as you put it, is remote. Nor have we been affected by the millenium bug. All accounts are interiely accurate. You may write to Anne Robinson at Watchdog if you wish, but I am sure she will agree that you have no grounds for complaint. Our records inform us that payment on your VISA account is now overdue.”

I look forward to more mindless adventures with my new friend, shopaholic.

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The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner

Summary: This is a collection of short stories, the first three of which all follow the same family of characters at different points in their life. Fans of Weiner, might recognize Bruce from Good in Bed in the story Good Men. While not all of the stories in this collection involve the same characters, they do all share the same theme of love and relationships. From the inside cover, “From a teenager coming to terms with her father’s disappearance to a widow accepting two young women into her home, Weiner’s eleven stories explore those transformative moments in our every day.”

Review: I am a fan of Jennifer Weiner and I think this may be favorite of hers. These stories were funny, they were sad and they were REAL.  My two favorites were “The Mother’s Hour” and “Dora on the Beach”.

In “The Mother’s Hour” we meet a Alice, a suburban stay-at-home mother whose life is not at all what she expected.  Sure she has the adorable two year old, the big house and the husband who makes a lot of money, but her two year old is a bratty, whiny terror and the big house just reinforces the fact that her husband is never home and her and her daughter are pretty much alone in this.  She joins a play group and meets Victoria, a nineteen year old mother who lives in the wrong neighborhood and has different colored streaks in her hair, depending on the day.  Through Victoria, Alice eventually learns what is important in the world and reexamines her own life.  In Weiner’s commentary in the back, she mentions that the story was turned down by a women’s magazine because they wanted her to change the ending.  She says, “I decide not to.  I think, given the circumstances, and the choices the characters made, it ends about the way it should.”  I second that!

“Dora on the Beach” is about a widow who is held hostage in her own apartment by two teenage girls.  I fell in love with Dora in this story,  a lonely woman who has more excitement in the three days she is held hostage than she ever has in her life.  This is a story about humans longing for contact with one another and the “redemptive possibilities of love.”

If you are considering reading anything by Jennifer Weiner, I suggest “The Guy Not Taken” as the one to read first.

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3 thoughts on “Balancing and Why I read “Chick Lit”

  1. I don’t think you have to explain yourself!! I love chick-lit…and sometimes it’s exactly what you need. And I don’t think it’s all mindless either…and what’s wrong with being entertained? 🙂

  2. I agree with Amy; sometimes reading something fun and less serious is exactly what you need. 🙂

    Chicklit is not usually the genre I turn to when I want something light and entertaining, but that’s just me. I have my own guilty pleasures–a paranormal novel, for instance, and a few of my favorite mystery series fall into that category as well. Even so, there are some chicklit books I have read and liked. I really enjoyed Confessions of a Shopaholic and the next two in the series. I haven’t had a chance to read beyond those yet. I’ve yet to read anything by Jennifer Weiner, but I’ve been wanting to.

  3. I don’t think I can read Confessions of a Shopaholic because from your description, I feel I would I identify too strongly with the main character.

    I actually don’t think of myself as a big shopper because I don’t buy a lot of clothes or anything, but the rationalizing utterly unnecessary purchases (fancy food! books!) and the throwing bills in a drawer… let’s just say it may hit a little too close to home. Thank god I don’t actually write for a financial magazine, is all I can say.

    But yeah, I’ve seen this book A TON in stores (it’s carried in the drugstore chain around here), and likewise Jennifer Weiner’s books, which I always see in airports, and I’ve never really thought about picking up either. Your post is making me reconsider.

    To which I say: damn you, msmazzola, damn you. Is the teen lit not enough? Will you condemn me to a life obsessed with chick lit as well??

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