Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: Spin by Catherine McKenzie and Thoughts on Chick Lit part 431,567

Shortly before her 30th birthday, Katie gets a call to interview for her dream job--writing at her favorite music magazine. In order to celebrate both her birthday and this interview, her friends take her out on the town the night before and she gets really drunk. So drunk in fact, that when the time for the interview rolls around, she's still pretty gone. As you can imagine, the interview goes horribly. Katie is upset and tries to turn things around for herself when she gets a call from the parent publication...they have a freelance opportunity for her. If all goes well, they might reconsider her. Katie is thrilled but surprised to discover what they want her to do. They want her to go undercover at a posh rehab facility and spy on a famous celebrity who is there for their gossip magazine. Desperate for the chance to redeem herself, Katie jumps at the opportunity and soon finds herself checking into rehab.

At first she doesn't thinks she really needs it, but as she spends time in the facility and working the steps she starts to realize some things about her life and what she was doing that could stand to change. And she makes friends and meets a cute guy and starts running and it all leads to the inevitable...the decision about the hugely big problematic reason she's in there.

I loved this book from start to finish. It's been ages since I've read a book that was as funny and real like this one. I liked Katie and I think McKenzie did a good job of allowing you to see her outside the scope of her own first person narrative if that makes sense. Like to the reader, it's clear Katie has a drinking problem even if Katie is in deep denial about it herself. And while the realities of addiction may not seem as dark and heavy in this book as they are often treated in media or are in life, they are still very real. There are suicide attempts, and acts of desperation, and facing the cold hard facts about yourself and your history. So it didn't really bother me. Things like Katie's manipulation of the people around her and the lies she's told all catch up to her.

And the pop culture references were so perfect because they all resonated with me. You know how sometimes you read a book full of pop culture references and you just sort of go with it, but you don't really care about half of them? Well this one was awesome and used ones I liked in a way that made me happy so it was perfect. :)

I loved the book, the conclusion was perfect, and it made me start thinking about the term chick lit again. Because I would have called this book chick lit without hesitation a few years ago as a way to classify it, but in recent years the term has become very outdated, not to mention how contentious it is. It's just recently, strangely, popped up again in discussion I think because Sophie Kinsella's new book just came out. I've read some of these pieces with interest because of my own history with the genre. I genuinely love these books when they are written well, and if I hadn't ever started writing about books online I would never have known there were so many feelings about them.

I've heard that chick lit has now been reclassified as romantic comedies, which bothers me to be honest. A book like Spin for example, has a romance but the romance is hardly the point of the story. It's Katie's story of self-discovery and while she happens to fall in love as well, that love story is very secondary to Katie's own story. And that's how a lot of chick lit books are and always have been. They often get dismissed as frivolous books about women shopping and longing to fall in love with the right guy, but they are primarily books about women finding themselves (for lack of a better term). And that's the reason, of course, that in my early twenties I fell so in love with these books, because I was on that same journey, and it was the first time I felt like someone was writing about my stage of life in a way that was heartwarming and relateable, with a light, comedic touch while never mocking me. This isn't to say all chick lit was good--it wasn't. I read sooo many at the time, and quite a few were bad. I actually think, for example, that Sophie Kinsella is highly underrated, to write a book with as light a touch as she has, that seems so effortlessly funny and interesting while still telling a real story is not that easy or others would have done it.

I understand, of course, why chick lit is a problematic term, and I agree that it's ridiculous that all books by women get classified as chick lit in some circles. But I don't think romantic comedies are the right term either, and women's fiction just sounds like a more acceptable way of saying the same thing as chick lit. I don't know how else to classify these books, but I know them when I read them.

I guess moving away from the term chick lit might be beneficial. This interview with Sophie Kinsella and some of the following comments irritated me beyond belief. But all I ask for is an acceptable replacement term! And also, of course, a little more respect for these writers and their readers.

Anyway! I really loved Spin and I highly recommend it for people who love funny, heartwarming, novels.

Rating: 4.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Profanity
Source of Book: Received from publisher for Review
Publisher: William Morrow


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