Saturday, December 23, 2006

Learning To Play Gin

Learning To Play Gin by Ally Carter.

The Plot: Sequel to Cheating At Solitaire. It's ten months since Julie and Lance got together and for two people who are dating, they barely see each other. His acting career has taken off, so he's either filming or promoting his movies; her career has come to stand still (who wants to read a self help book about how awesome it is to be single when the writer is now in a picture perfect relationship?), so Julie spends her time renovating her house and being with her family and friends in her native Oklahoma. Julie is surprised to hear via a TV interview that Lance has bought a house in LA, and even more surprised when he asks her to go to California. She's not sure what to do or where she belongs; but she goes. Can someone who was so good at Solitaire learn how to play Gin? Is it possible for Julie to be happy in a relationship?

The Good: As with CaS, what works best is the friendship between Julia, Caroline (her sister) and Nina (her best friend.) These are people you enjoy hanging out with, even if it's pretend.

I also liked how Julie, so good at being single, now has to learn how to be part of a couple.

The writing is funny; some of my favorites include the observation that "Barbie messed everybody up." And how's this for a description of someone attending dinner: "When Wes walked into the kitchen, he didn't look like someone who was ready for Thanksgiving -- he looked liked someone who was celebrating Thanksgiving in a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie." Julie's mother is present in this one in pithy emails: "Daddy kind of hurt his leg, but the vet was here and said it was nothing, so he's not going to the doctor. We're so lucky to have such a good vet nearby."

This book takes place over a fairly short period of time; but what I missed was Julie's career. I wonder if Carter knows how she is going to resolve this dilemma. What was raised is that Julie feels that she cannot honestly write for "single women power" since she is no longer single. At the same time, she respects and honors those single women she wrote for and cannot see herself writing "90 Days to a Wedding Ring" type book or a "now that I'm in couple it's the best! thing! ever!" book.

Julie muses that she wrote books for women to be happy just as they are.... what will she write now? A novel is mentioned, but not much is said about the plot. I felt as if Julie was dancing on the edge of a great idea for a non fiction book, one that wouldn't be "single power," wouldn't be "unless you're married, your worthless," but would be honest and about being happy with your life without dieting or pretending or manipulating, regardless of significant other status.

But -- no such new nonfiction book idea happened. Which makes me convinced there will be a third book.

While these are books about grown ups -- the main characters are all in their 30s, with thirtysomething lives; Nina is twice divorced, Caroline also has some issues with her husband -- the humor is all ages. Julie goes thru the "normal person in the world of LA" experience, trying to find clothes that fit a normal person instead of anorexic twelve year olds and adjusting to all the people in Lance's life (assistants, assistants to assistants). I'm not sure if it's just Carter's style, or if she was aware that despite this book being clearly marketed towards adults her teen fans may read it; either way, this is a clean romance. You could read it aloud to Grandma and not blush.

Links: the Bookburger Between The Buns interview.

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