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Dear Thursday: Erica Kennedy’s FEMINISTA

So in the interest of procrastinating living well, I have decided to try reading or listening to a book a week and then reporting on it here. Hopefully this will inspire you guys to also read a few books while you’re waiting for 32 CANDLES to come out. Oh, and I’ve broken this review into sections, b/c that’s basically how I break books down when I’m reading and reviewing them in my head. So here goes:

FEMINISTA_Page_1Why I Decided To Read It: I loved Erica Kennedy’s first novel, the hip-hop roman a clef, BLING, and I’ve basically been waiting for her to write another novel for over four years now.

What’s It About: It’s about a writer, trying to find the perfect mate.I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t all chicklit about a writer trying to find the perfect mate? Same ole. Same ole. But in this case you’re wrong. See below.

What Makes It Different: The main character, Sydney Zamora, has an extremely strong personality. She’s also smart and (gasp!) a feminist. Also, the love interest is complicated in a way that you’d expect a scion to be complicated in real life — but they’re rarely depicted this way in other chick lit and women’s fiction.

What I Loved: I can’t remember the last time I read something romantic with a main character that described herself as a feminist. How refreshing. I also like that she was a complicated feminist and seemed to live by her own rulebook for Feminism. Plus, she’s mean. I love mean women. Also, the book is laugh-out-loud funny and really readable to the point where I had trouble putting it down. I really hope that Ms. Kennedy doesn’t make us wait another four years for her next novel.

What I Didn’t Like: Well, I was taught in grad school never to say that a character is unlikeable. We were supposed to figure out why the character was unlikeable and then list those reasons. So in that spirit, I found Sydney Zamora unlikeable, b/c she didn’t seem to like anybody else. She had a problem with every single woman and man she came in contact with and was incredibly judgmental. This was basically like reading a book about one of the girls that made fun of me in grade school and expecting me to cheer her on to a happy ending. I mean I did it, but it was hard going for the first few chapters, knowing that I was reading a book about a woman who would probably hate me in real life.

Also, as I mentioned on Tuesday, at one point the narrator wishes that her horrible ex gets saddled with a wife that’s fat, has adult acne, and halitosis. As a nerd who somewhat resembles that put down, I wondered if the author only wanted beautiful people to read her novel, because I nearly put the book down (or in this case, switched my Kindle off) after the narrator said that. And that was the first of a few slams against women for looking old, fat, or just generally, not gorgeous. Sigh.

Last, for reasons I don’t quite understand, this book was littered with exclamation marks throughout the narrative. Noooo!

Writing Lessons Learned:

Specifics, specifics, specifics. I’ve never worked at a magazine, gotten extensions, been to DUMBO, or the back-offices of a family-owned luxury store, but I feel like I have now. This book made me appreciate how important details are in writing. Basically, why put your love interest in an office, when you can put him in a red and white office, inspired by a hotel he once stayed at. Nice!

Hang a lantern on it. About a fourth of the way through the story, the main character’s sister and sister-in-law have a conversation along the lines of “Why should we help Sydney? She’s self-involved and this bad quality and that bad quality.” And they never really answer that question, but just knowing that someone else was seeing these flaws, too, helped me go along with the story and like Sydney a lot more.

Funny helps. I remember reading the first two books in the Shopaholic series even though I didn’t like Becky Bloomwood, the main character, because she was 1) A complete spendthrift and 2) Kept on making the exact same mistake, in bigger ways over and over again. But Sophie Kinsella got two audiobooks worth of my money because Becky Bloomwood was also really, really funny. Same goes for Sydney Zamora. Funny helps.

Short chapters. I don’t do short chapters myself, but this book made me want to give it try one of these days. Really kept the pages turning and the pace moving. Towards the end, it was 2am and I only had one more full day of vacation left and my baby would be waking up in less than 5 hours, but I kept on clicking through the pages. I could not put it down.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: Anyone who works in fashion, magazines, or retail; professional women; mean women; beach readers; those who are sick of traditional heroines; and those who want a good laugh.

Family Members Who Might Like This: Elizabeth, Lisa, Kim, Leslie Marie, Kevin.

Friends Who Might Like This: Stephanie W, Laurenne S, Delia H, Kalimba B, Nicole S, Lisa S.