Every Boy’s Got One
In Every Boy’s Got One, Jane Harris, a single New Yorker, finds herself on a transatlantic flight to Italy as the maid of honor for the elopement of her best friend Holly. Jane’s enthusiasm for Holly’s marriage to Mark isn’t dampened by the knowledge that neither of the betrothed’s parents want this wedding to take place (primarily because Holly is Catholic and Mark is Jewish) or even the fact that Cal Langdon, Mark’s best man, seems genetically opposed to marriage in general, and this one in particular.
From the time they lay eyes on each other, Jane and Cal are at odds-- he’s a world traveler and she’s never left the US before; he’s just written a book on the geopolitics of the Saudi oil fields while she’s a cartoonist; he thinks Mark is making a huge mistake, and she believes in true love as sure as she knows the sun will rise.
Told through Jane’s journal, e-mails between friends and family, and PDA entries, Meg Cabot’s Every Boy’s Got One is a fast-paced romantic comedy about two people who couldn’t be more different who unexpectedly end up working together with surprising results.
Jane Harris is a quintessential girly character; her enthusiasm for life (and shoes) and her obvious faith in the power of love shine from the page; she’s so genuine, readers are certainly won over by her. With eyes full of wonder, Cabot makes it easy for readers to experience Italy-- and it’s cuisine-- from Jane’s perspective: “…we sat and ate chunky crumbles of parmesan and fresh tangy olives and buttery slivers of salami and garlicky mussels…”
She’s a great foil for Cal, who oozes testosterone and worldliness. After a disastrous experience with one woman in particular, he’s adamant that not only is marriage not for Mark, or for him, but that monogamy in general is unnatural. Needless to say, Jane doesn’t exactly agree. And when she calls him on his opinions and his motives (out of earshot of the bride and groom, of course) battle lines are drawn, making for very amusing exchanges between the two.
Cabot’s writing style-- telling the story through e-mails, PDA entries and Jane’s diary-- is very effective; she has the ability to share important information about Jane, Cal, Mark and Holly with the reader (say, about Holly’s mom’s stated wish in an e-mail that she marry an Italian, or even a Pole, just so long as he’s Catholic) through peripheral characters (such as parents, siblings and others) without risking confusion by introducing each one of them, moving them into and out of the narrative in an artificial way.
The plot feels predictable as the book opens, but by the end, Cabot’s novel sparkles with twists and turns that keep it lively. Interestingly, readers are treated to Cabot’s “Little Black Book” at the end of the novel, which reveals her inspiration for the book, and compares the fact and fiction of Every Boy’s Got One to real events in Cabot’s life. It’s a great wrap-up to the story, and adds to the reader’s enjoyment of this easy summer beach read.
The Secret of Life: Commonsense Advice for Uncommon Women
Full of practical advice for women, Elizabeth Wurtzel’s The Secret of Life: Commonsense Advice for Uncommon Women is a little paperback that packs a strong punch. In short, easy to read chapters with self-explanatory titles like “Eat Dessert,” “Have Opinions,” “Be Gorgeous” and “Always Keep Your Mind on How You Feel, Not on How He Feels,” Wurtzel shares her empowering thoughts on living life as a modern woman. Advising readers on how to take care of themselves and live an independent life, physically, financially, mentally and emotionally, Wurtzel’s writing is edgy yet accessible. The Secret of Life isn’t a touchy-feely self-help book; rather, it reads more like a manifesto for a well-ordered life.
The tone of the book is never preachy or rigid, rather, Wurtzel’s style is authoritative and sophisticated. Full of five- and ten-cent words, the author of Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America and Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women speaks like an adult, and expects her reader to act like one. With a sort of “Sex and the City” self-assuredness, The Secret of Life repackages the words of wisdom your mom always told you (“…I believe in the very old-fashioned notion that if you do yourself up a bit, you will… radiate vibes of pretty and beautiful, whether or not you actually are in possession of the real thing.”) and mixes in plenty that she didn’t, like paying someone else to do menial tasks whenever you are able to-- there’s no honor in doing housework for example, if you hate it, aren’t any good at it, and can afford to hire someone else to do it.
With a (very, very) brief history of feminism and plenty of readily recognizable examples of exactly what she means sprinkled throughout the book, Wurtzel is never coy or ambiguous about her rules for living-- to love and respect yourself and be lovable and respected by others. Nor does she believe that this kind of life is unattainable for any woman. There are no special tools, tips, or tricks, Wurtzel just helps reframe the reader’s perspective so that she can make the most of what she’s got and what she wants, without losing herself along the way.Originally published as an e-book titled Radical Sanity, this is a cross between an etiquette book for modern living and a letter from the older sister you may wish you had; it’s one of those books you’ll keep in the drawer of your bedside table long after you’ve read it, to peruse a chapter here and there as circumstances in your life change, to find inspiration, motivation and validation.
© Melt Magazine 2005