Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Next Thing on My List, by Jill Smolinski

Every once in a while, I dip into the "chick lit" category (I hate that phrase) . . . and usually I am reminded why people sneer at chick lit. The Next Thing on My List has a somewhat interesting premise: thirty-something June Parker is driving home from her first Weight Watchers meeting, when she offers another attendee, Marissa Jones, a ride. Unfortunately, they get into an accident and Marissa is killed. Consumed by guilt, June visits Marissa's grave on the six-month anniversary of her death. She runs into Marissa's brother Troy there and rashly tells him she is going to complete Marissa's list of "Twenty things to do before I turn 25" that she found in her car after the accident. The rest of the book recounts her efforts to complete those tasks, which range from "dare to go braless" and "kiss a stranger" to "change someone's life." Perhaps it goes without saying that the process changes June's life.

I had multiple problems with the way the book unfolded. First I didn't think the author's attempts to blend humor and pathos were particularly effective; in fact, they seemed to work against each other. Second, and I admit I could be wrong about this, I couldn't believe that Marissa's family would find June's quest in any way healing or even acceptable, given that she was driving when Marissa was killed and that she kept this private writing of their daughter secret from them for six months (and only revealed it because of a chance meeting). Finally, June's eventual romantic connection (presumably a necessity for chick lit--and don't get me wrong, I love a good romantic connection) ridiculous--despite the fact that you can see it coming. I can only assume that Smolinski believed she had created a character who was a lovable diamond in the rough, whereas to this reader, she had created a one-dimensional buffoon!

I only hope Jennifer Weiner won't track me down and shame me for dissing the genre.

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