Book Review: Best Friends Forever

The more I venture into this world of writing fiction, the more I want to read fiction.  I’ve been a book-worm since I was a small child, reading while we waited for food in a restaurant or in the backseat on a road trip.  So, I took the opportunity to relive my childhood a couple of weeks ago and cracked open Jennifer Weiner’s Best Friends Forever in the back of my mother’s Ford Expedition as she carted us (begrudgingly) back from a family trip to my parent’s beach house.

I nearly finished the book in the eight hours I was trapped in the car, but I didn’t quite make it and had to save the last fifty pages until last night.  I lit a couple of candles, turned on my bedside lamp and crawled into bed, anxious to find out what would become of Addie Downs and Valerie Adler. 

Addie and Val had been best friends as children.  Addie was shy, quiet and virtually friendless when Val moved to town.  She was mesmerized by Val and her single mother, especially how Val didn’t seem to care what anyone else thought of her.  Painfully aware of her own awkwardness, Addie faded into the woodwork as outgoing Val blossomed in high school.  When their friendship is brought to a shattering end just before graduation, they both go on to lead very different lives.

Fifteen years later, on the night of their high school reunion, Val shows up on Addie’s doorstep, blood splattered on her coat.  Addie is reluctant at first, but Val charms here just as she did the first day they met.  Practical and routine Addie soon finds herself searching for a dead body and then fleeing town with Val. 

I’ve read other reviews that describe their story as reminiscent of Thelma and Louise, but with a different ending.  It’s a great way to describe the hilarious and somewhat misguided adventure of these two loveable ladies.

Two very different characters, Addie and Val are equally loveable.  Addie still sees herself as the self-conscious fat kid, although she’s curbed the years of emotional eating and embraced an exercise routine.  She’s forgiving, loyal and completely oblivious to the fabulous person she has become. 

Meanwhile, Val is slightly self-obsessed, but equally insecure on the inside.  She’s impetuous and a tad crazy, completely unconcerned with committing more crimes to cover up the one she’s afraid she’s already perpetrated.  The two are the perfect balance for each other, and it’s easy to see why they were such good friends as children – and why they must be again. 

The best line of the entire book is delivered by Addie and targeted at Val after referencing a ridiculous on-air stunt Val completed as part of her job as a weathergirl: “I’m going to suggest that the dignity ship has sailed without you aboard.”  I’m totally stashing that line away for later use!

Don’t think Weiner forgot to include a love interest for main character, Addie.  He’s wonderfully imperfect as well.  I was very impressed with how well Weiner captured the male mindset with Jordan.  At least it was how I think a man would think!

If you’re looking for a good read, I highly recommend Best Friends Forever.  Weiner’s characters have a quick wit and are instantly engaging.  One minute your heartstrings are being tugged by Addie and her painful self-image, then the next you’re rolling your eyes and laughing hysterically as Val tries to rob a bank. 

You’ll get so hooked on these characters that you’ll wish you could take them out and grab a drink together!

Book Review: Life After Yes

Life After Yes is the debut novel by Aidan Donnelly Rowley, who also blogs over on Ivy League Insecurities.  Somehow I missed her blog until I discovered the book, but it turned out to be a great read as well and is now loaded into my Google Reader.

This book caught my eye while searching for vacation reading at Target.  It wasn’t the pretty cover that pulled me in, however, it was the title.  I picked up the book because I dread reading books where I can predict the ending, and I correctly guessed this story would twist and turn in unforseen ways. 

Life After Yes is the story of Prudence Quinn O’Malley, who hates the idea of being prudent so much that she insists on being called Quinn.  Newly engaged, Quinn isn’t having the reaction expected of a bride.  First, she has a panic-inducing dream where she walks down the aisle to find three grooms (amongst interesting appearances by Britney and Nietzsche).  Quinn doesn’t pour over bridal magazines like a newly-minted bride-to-be.  She dreads picking out her wedding gown and has let the groom pick the wedding venue.  That’s the least of her problems though when she keeps finding herself attracted to other men: a guy at work, then her former boyfriend.  Add to it that she’s also still grieving over the loss of her father on September 11th, and Quinn is at a confusing crossroads in her life. 

Quinn is engaging and wonderfully flawed. Every woman will find some piece of herself in Quinn.  I was hooked when the back cover revealed she was a young lawyer, but that became the least of what made Quinn irresistable once I began reading.  Equally engaging was her hilarious, say-exactly-what-she-thinks (no matter how inappropriate) friend and colleague, Kayla, who I think deserves a novel of her own!    

I knew I would love Rowley as soon as I read the quotes that preceed the book’s beginning, which explain that she chose to break the “rule” that you don’t start a novel with a dream sequence.  She stubbornly (I would imagine) refused to follow the “rules” because this is where she thought Quinn’s story began.  She was right.

I also love to read novels told in the first person. Rowley does a great job of letting us inside Quinn’s head, while also developing all of the other characters into complex and engaging individuals. Not an easy feat when writing in first person!

I finished this one in 48 hours and would definitely recommend it to friends.  I’ll be adding Rowley to my list of attorneys-turned-authors (others include Kristin Hannah and Emily Giffin) that I can’t seem to resist!