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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Confessions of a Shopaholic

**½ Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. Chick lit.

You know, I really should have known from the title that this wasn't the book for me. In the immortal words of Eve Dallas, "I don't shop; I buy. There's a difference." But I enjoy chick lit, and I've liked other characters who aren't like me, and everybody loves these books (4.5 stars at Amazon with over 800 reviews), so when I was shopping at half.com, looking through the seller's other books to see if there were any I'd like so I could get the cheaper shipping (something the heroine of this book would never do), and saw a whole bunch of these (3 or 4) for 75 cents each, I decided to give them a shot.

Rebecca Bloomwood is, as the title states, a shopaholic. She's also a financial writer, though she mostly fakes her way through her job. She's deeply in debt. Mostly, she's a pathological liar. She hides her bills and apparently believes that if she never opens them, she's not liable for them. She convinces herself that she's actually saving money by buying an expensive scarf that's on sale. She stiffs her best friend and roommate on the rent and her share of expenses, but goes out and buys frivolous things on credit anyway. She buys a lottery ticket and is absolutely certain that she's now a millionaire--to the point where she's devastated when it doesn't win, and is sure it must be a mistake.

She decides that the way to get out of debt isn't to spend less; it's to earn more. So she goes about trying to accomplish that by even more lying. And in the end, she succeeds--gets a great job and gets the guy. This isn't a spoiler--you knew it would have a happy ending.

What is a spoiler, but a worthwhile one, if it keeps others from being as disillusioned as I was, is that Becky never learns a damned thing in the book. I'm not at all trying to convince anyone not to read this--obviously it doesn't bother the vast majority of readers--but since expectations have so much to do with one's enjoyment of a book, you should know not to expect Becky to grow or change.

So there are two reasons I didn't like this book:
  1. I couldn't sympathize with the main character at all, or even understand her. I've been in debt before--who hasn't? And I've bought things I couldn't afford. But the incessant lying and complete disregard for anyone besides herself made her utterly unlikeable from my perspective. She didn't have any redeeming qualities that I could see. You know, I like stories with characters who start out as unlikeable, then grow and change and develop into someone I can like. But she doesn't. Which leads me to:
  2. The structure of the story. It's about a static character. Things happen to her, and she reacts to them. More things happen. She reacts some more. Her problems get solved, but not by her own efforts, rather in spite of them. There's no conflict, no value change, no antagonist. A maxed-out Visa card is not an antagonist.
Periodically, while I was reading, I could appreciate the humor in certain situations, and I enjoyed that while it lasted. It's not the worst book I've ever read, but I'm not going to be in any hurry to get the other Shopaholic books out of my TBR pile.


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Last summer when I was flying back home to see the folks, I stopped in the airport book store (Narita Airport, Tokyo). The English section isn't very big, but I really wanted a book for the flight. I'm pretty sure there were one or two of those Shopaholic books. I read the backs and the blurbs just didn't do anything for me. I'm glad to see I didn't miss out since the cost is much higher than they would be in a US bookstore (try about $10 plus for a paperback). I picked up a Janet Evanovich paperback and one of Sherilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series.

That said, I agree with your criticisms. If a character doesn't grow and isn't very likable from the beginning it's hard to stick with the story. Btw, never heard of half.com. Going to check it out.
Yes! I was starting to think I was the only one who felt this way!!
Thanks, Susan! I'm glad I'm not alone. :) I always feel so bad when there's a book everybody loves and I just... don't.
Awww Darla, don't feel bad...just remember we love you anyway :)
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