You know “the one,” right? The one who cheated. The one who lied. The one who broke my damn heart. The one who kept calling my house begging me to take his conniving ass back. That “one.”
I won The Bum Magnet by K. L. Brady from Color Online, and, in an effort to actually read the books that I own versus the ones that I checked out from my library (plus I promised to review it), I brought it with me on vacation this weekend and finally read it. It’s the story of Charisse, a successful realtor, and her quest to understand why she keeps attracting deadbeats.
What I Liked
– The best things about this book are hands down the voice and the humor. Reading the book is like sitting down to talk with a friend, and Charisse keeps it very real. I couldn’t help but think of at least two of my friends who would enjoy it based on the narration alone. The humor never feels forced; it’s very authentic. She talks the way lots of women I know talk, and I really appreciated that. It’s dirty, but not raunchy–if that makes sense–which I appreciated because I can be kind of a prude sometimes.
– I loved the relationship between Charisse and Nisey. It’s definitely a “true friend helps you bury the body” kind of relationship. They are true blue friends who say what’s necessary, not what the other wants to hear. At the same time, their relationship has that realistic frustration of not listening to each other’s advice when they’re venting. You know, they speak truth to each other, but then do what they want/feel anyway EVEN WHEN IT’S WRONG.
– I saw so many women I know in Charisse. Sooooo many. At times it was almost painful to read (except it was so funny) because it was just like, “NOOOOOO, CHARISSE. DON’T DO IT. HE’S PLAYING YOU. WHY CAN’T YOU SEEEEEEEE?” That said, it was also totally believable that she would fall for these men and their stories. The characterization was on point. The spying, the mistrust, the desperation and incompleteness? Wow, just so something I have seen so many times.
– Did I mention that the characters are awesome? They’re awesome. Really well drawn, all with their own distinctive voices. The guys and their issues are fantastic, and, wow, do I know some of those guys as well. Having a favorite (who isn’t the good guy) doesn’t feel right, but I kind of loved Lamar the most. Not that I would ever want to date him or anything–just that he’s a great character.
What I Didn’t Like
– There are some plotting and pacing issues. Some of the resolutions feel rushed or incomplete, and I wish Brady had slowed down a bit and spent more time on them. For example, one of the biggest threads is Charisse’s relationship with her cousin Lee, and it’s pretty much done in a chapter or two, and since there’s so much build up for the resolution, I felt really cheated. Also, there’s a LOT going on, and I felt the subplots could’ve been simplified a bit so I could grasp on to the three most important ones, but they kind of felt all over the place.
The form of the novel is that Charisse reads her old journals of her failed relationships, so there are flashbacks as well as real time narrations, but it was hard for me to ground myself in the narrative because I was never sure where in time I was. I mean, it was clear when it was a flashback, but I was kind of surprised to find out that the novel spans a year when I got to the end.
– The book could’ve benefited from some editing, especially in terms of the dialogue. There were just moments where it was stilted. I mean, yes, that’s how people talk in real life, but some of it could’ve been cut down to get to what was important. You know, the “nice to meet you”s and the “Oh, that’s interesting. What do you do?”s banality. There were also some grammatical errors that I noticed, such as the misspelling of tête-à-tête.
I doubt my friends that I would recommend the book to would notice or care about those things, but that’s why I’m an Englishist and they’re not.
– The ending was really kind of pat.
– Oh, and it gets REALLY preachy at the end.
As Charisse tries to understand her past relationships, she’s really searching to free herself from past hurts.
In conclusion: All of that said, this is a really fun read and an EXCELLENT beach/pool read, which I know, because I read it poolside over the weekend. The voice is distinctive, the characters are great, and, honestly, the fun of it outweighs the flaws.
Also check out Get Off the Short Bus, Charisse and Nisey’s relationship advice blog. Contains spoilers for the book, so wait until you read that to read the blog.
POC Challenge: 8/15