At some point the phrase “Chick Lit” took on a negative connotation and now I’m not sure how to use it without unleashing female fists of fury. When I think of the genre, what comes to mind is the tell-tale eye candy covers and a young, privileged, mostly white, female protagonist working in a big city whilst shopping and fretting over a man. The truth is I haven’t read much of this genre, but I’m pretty sure most of it nervously falls under “Women’s Fiction” today. I’m guessing Jen Lancaster doesn’t care where you shelve her book as long as you enjoy it.
Jen Lancaster’s Here I Go Again landed in my reading pile mysteriously. Perhaps the book fairy thought it was time for some lite fun, a break from ghosts and bloody weddings. And when the title insisted on putting Whitesnake in my head, I had no choice but to surrender.
Again, I have no idea how this book got into my apartment, presumably the fire escape, but I’m so glad it did. I almost forgot how much I enjoy reading humorous authors like Claire Cook and Jen Lancaster who know how to create characters whose flaws steer the plot ship.
The basic premise: Former high school mean queen Lissy Ryder gets the chance to go back and change her worst moments in order to fix the mess that is her current life. We’re talking time travel, lost loves and retribution all to a long-haired, shameless soundtrack of 80s rock.
In the time leading up to her 20-year high school reunion, Lissy loses her high-paying publicist job, her high school sweetheart/husband and her fancy Chicago condo. Now she’s living with her parents and still clueless that she’s the source of all her problems. Not unlike the magical twist in throwback 80s movies a la ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’, a former classmate turned world renown natural healer gives her a powerful elixir and Lissy wakes up in 1991 just before her 17th birthday. She has about tree weeks to change her bullying ways and hopefully steer her life on a better course.
The story is smarter than you think. Instead of obsessing over the chance to make her own life better, she’s haunted by how her actions affect others. She returns from her three weeks of not scarring classmates for life, and sees firsthand how the butterfly effect applies whether you’re mean or nice. In this case, not bullying people seems to have removed the drive they’d used to succeed. An odd take on bullying.
It’s curious to read a story told in the voice of a character who starts out so unlikable. The general premise and Lissy character reminded me a lot of Charlize Theron’s character in the move Young Adult only. But I stopped letting the similarities annoy me and decided pretty early on to enjoy the book for what it is. And I did. Even found myself sneaking more reading breaks than usual. Lissy grows on you; her love of hair metal and tater tots are almost enough to make you forgive her choice of Brett Michaels over Kurt Cobain.
This book hits the spot when you’re craving a colorful, fun read. It may even make you long for those days when it felt like you could understand the essentials of a person just by the music they loved.
Here I Go Again