Sunday, September 23, 2007

REVIEW: Frenemies, by Megan Crane

Published: June 2007 by 5 Spot. Click on the cover to buy. I'm an IndieBound affiliate and receive a small commission on sales.

I don't read a lot of chick lit. In fact I hardly read any. The last few chick lit books I came across, I threw to the floor after the first three pages. Just couldn't handle the stereotypes, the bad writing, the formulas, and that's more or less what I expected when I picked up Frenemies. But this is what I like about getting Advance Reader Copies- books come across my desk that push me outside my comfort zone and I get exposed to things I wouldn't normally. And sometimes- just sometimes- I find something unexpected, and unexpectedly delightful.

Frenemies is just such a book. It is absolutely charming. It does have some of the little characteristics that annoy me about chick lit- female characters with boy's names (cause that makes them cool), a tendency towards establishing character traits by the use of brand names and pop-culture references (lazy!) and a predictable, Jane-Austenesque Mr. Right-versus-Mr. Wrong setup- but Frenemies also has engaging characters, good writing and a compelling story.

The plot focuses on Gus, a 29 year old librarian (no, I didn't know it was about a librarian when I picked it up) working to define her adult life on the eve of her 30th birthday. She starts in the middle of a messy breakup with a louse of a boyfriend, and things quickly spin out of control from there. Her best friends, Amy Lee and Georgia, are going through transitions of their own and additional complications arrive in the form of Henry, Gus's ex's roommate, and Helen, the new girlfriend of the ex, also a former close friend of Gus's.

But at the hub of this maelstrom of 20-something angst is Gus herself, and she is a very relateable, normal and likable young woman with a lot going for her, not the least of which is her own intelligence, self awareness, honestly and good heart. I liked Gus a lot and liking her is what kept the book afloat for me. She has insecurities and failings too, but it's easy to forgive her because she's a good person just trying to do the best she can. And yeah, you can kinda see the end coming from a mile away, but so what.

I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this book and how it kept me reading. There is some real (if not really deep) emotional truth to the way all these relationships played out. I can't say I really bought the thing with the neighbor, but that's a minor quibble. Of course I didn't have any real questions about where it was going but it was a thoroughly enjoyable ride nonetheless.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

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