Friday, November 28, 2008

Group Review: Dedication

Summary: The team behind The Nanny Diaries and Citizen Girl returns with another breezy chick lit portrayal of a woman wronged and, eventually, empowered. When Kate Hollis's childhood chum Laura calls from their Vermont hometown and announces the arrival of Jake Sharpe, a mega rock star and Kate's high school sweetheart, Kate jumps on a plane from Charleston, S.C. (where she's a sustainable development consultant) and makes for idyllic Croton Falls. Through it's been 13 years, Kate still has a primal need to confront not only the boy who abandoned her before the senior prom, but the musical pirate who used her personal life as fodder for his most celebrated songs and cheated his high school bandmates out of deserved recognition and royalties. Chapters switch back and forth between the present and the pivotal middle and high school years where Kate (then Katie) and Jake did the first-love thing: readers get to see Jake's growing he's-just-not-that-into-you-ness and how (surprise!) their Zima-fueled love (it was the '90s) was idealized. While one spends much of the book wanting to shout at Kate to give it up, go back to Charleston and get on with it, McLaughlin and Kraus do get the nagging need for closure in even the shallowest relationships comically right.

Julie's Review: Dedication is a book about coming to terms with the love that you lost. I think it's a great premise but the book fell short. I found the writing to be choppy and adolescent. I liked Kate but I also couldn't stand her. I guess it was the whole, get on with your life at 30 that was bothering me. Sure, Jake Sharpe used their teenage romance to become a big Pop Star but I'm sure he's not the first one to do so or the last, maybe other pop stars just aren't so blatant. He did have a song called "Katie". So 13 years after he leaves her before prom, he's back in the town they grew up and fell in love in. So she drops everything to show him what he's missing. Some funny stuff ensues at times but mainly I just wanted to get to the point where they try to work it out and SURPRISE!! it doesn't. Jake is self-absorbed and surrounded by his cronies. Kate wants to figure out if she loves the guy that Jake's become. Before we even get to know the 30 year old Jake, the reader can tell that NO she won't be able to love him.

Have we all wondered what would happen if we reunited with our first love? Of course, but most of us know that it is never like it was when it was your first. First loves are pretty much intense and I think everyone will always love a part of their first. The thing is as you mature you realize it for what it was and that doesn't dawn on Kate until the end of the book.

Julie's Final Take: 3.5/5

Jenn's Review: I agree with Julie in that the premise of this book is fascinating; it holds so much potential. Growing up in Buffalo, I know people who used to be friends with John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls (whoo-hoo, Six Degrees of Separation and all that jazz). Not that I'm comparing McLaughlin's and Kraus's character of Jake to John Rzeznik (because I don't know him, I know of him and even that's nothing at all), because as far as I know there is no comparison. I'm just saying that, knowing someone who was friends with someone who became a rock star, the plausibility of the plot is all the more tangible for me. This could have been a delicious read, and instead it was merely sub-par.

The incessant cutting back and forth from flashbacks of Katie's memories of the past thirteen years (middle school through college and beyond) at first was just confusing. There were far too many secondary characters that, it turns out, I needn't have fussed over trying to keep straight because they weren't important and very few carried through the rest of the story. Some of her high school flashbacks were important, even interesting, but again they get bogged down in mundane minutiae. When McLaughlin and Kraus finally give you enough of the back story through flashbacks that you can grasp what is at the center of this ridiculous obsession of Kate's, and I'm finally thinking 'Phew! We're done with the flashbacks.', there are more of them! These becoming just fluff in the grand scheme of things.

At the heart of the plot, when I felt like we'd arrived, and that the story could finally go somewhere, it didn't. I didn't even feel like the character of Jake was consistent. There was rationalization for his behavior in the reader's eye, as well as some through Kate's eyes, but it all got thrown out the window in the end.

Most disappointing of all is that the book ends with a Kate flashback. It was weak. I know it was supposed to be symbolic and bring the story full circle, but it lessened the importance of what Kate was supposed to have gleaned from her journey. The denouement is not supposed to plummet through the floor, and this one really felt like overkill.

Jenn's Final Take: 3/5

Lisa's Review: I suppose I will be the lone dissenting voice, because I liked this one just a little better than my friends. Probably because I know the desperation of seeking closure to the relationship that didn't quite end correctly. I know it all a little too well and the fact that this book accurately captured that desperation, the opportunity to confront and the confusion that comes along with it is possibly my favorite part. Thankfully, my experiences never included a now famous ex-boyfriend, who parlayed our teenaged love life into consistent number one hits - can you imagine? The story unfolds chapter by chapter, alternating past memories with the present.

Katie is sympathetic and I am right there with her in every moment, fearing her choices, willing her to be brave and cheering her on. Yes, 13 years was a lot of time, but my twenties were dotted with the soundtrack to my first sexual experiences and my parents lives, so I can't judge whether she should have fully moved on already. I did wonder what would have happened if Jake hadn't shown up that Christmas. I also worried about whether we would get the 'chick-lity' ending, this was executed in the "right" way - real and extremely satisfying, coming full circle and ultimitely to the wise realization that true friendship surpasses all.

I will agree with my friends that the writing needed some work. For such a short book, my mind wandered a little too much at times and there were times the authors could have been less vague about some things. Overall, I think the plot rules the writing stlye and it was short and easy to read.

Lisa's Final Take: 4/5


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