Harper, £9.99, ISBN 0-00-226129-4
Contemporary Fiction, 2001
Sometimes in my moments of weakness, I wish I am cosmopolitan and chic. I wish I have a wardrobe of expensive real fur (remember, I said “moment of weakness”, so don’t shoot me, PETA), an expensive champagne habit, and I will channel Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Cartier, and Givenchy all day long. And I want to be chic and read pop chick lit. And then, I come across books like Bad Boy and am reminded of the so many better things in life.
Tracie is the heroine. She is going out with faux-rockstar Phil. She has a best friend, a nerd named Jon, whom she takes for granted. The author takes the pain to show me how wrong Phil is for Tracie, such as when Phil actually tells his friends, in front of Tracie, that Tracie is dumb but ain’t she cute, awww. And Tracie smiles, taking it all in – Phil’s an artist (never mind he’s just an aspiring rock star in a group called Swollen Glands – he’s an artist).
Jon, on one Mother’s Day, got fed up of having to cater to his father’s six (or is it nine?) ex-wives. He’s a nice guy, and he considers them all his “mothers” whom he should drop by on Mother’s Day. He also can’t get laid. He asks Tracie how to be popular, and so Tracie teaches him the Bad Boy Rules.
One, never be available. Two, never be predictable. Three, never tell them where you live. Never call, never answer, never bother. Tracie’s been reading The Rules again, I can tell. Needless to say, since women are all morons, Jon’s a hit. But ah, Tracie, now that she has made Jon into her dream man (read: a jerk), is attracted to Jon way too much for her own good…
Now, I understand the basis of a chick lit is to have the heroine start out a complete bimbo and have her “discover herself” (and according to the formula, lose her job, friends, and self respect while she’s at it) for a chance to date the boyfriend in peace by the last chapter. Ms Goldsmith must be commended for not following the formula. Instead, she has our two main characters so passive and – yes – stupid that the rushed last chapter of “Oh, I love you!” is laughable. By the second last chapter, Jon has told Tracie he loves her, but Tracie insists on marrying Phil. Why? I don’t want to know. And they are still sleeping with other people. Only by the last chapter, ka-bam! Happy ending. Only of course, this is a “hip” chick lit, so no mushy weddings and babies please. Only a teaser “let’s date” ending. After all, Helen Fielding had a sequel for her Bimbo Jones book, right?
Bad Boy is not romantic. Okay, it is, if you want to be cool too and consider being used by Mr Wrongs all the way to the last chapter and then finally getting a Mr Right, who has been waiting all this while, now ain’t that romantic? In this novel, love isn’t sweet. Love means being taken for granted and being used and abused only for some illusionary and brief moments of happiness. This is romantic according to the faux hip and cynical crowd, the sort who sleep with married-to-other-people partners because they insist love doesn’t exist and the sort who keep deliberately sabotaging their love lives so that they can happily reaffirm their cynicism. The world will stop or turn just to fit your whims and moods and a Mr Right will wait patiently for you while you stupidly harbors delusions about a Mr Wrong. And that you can blame all your shortcomings on gender stereotypes, ie “women will always be attracted to bad boys”. In short, cool pretentious hip romantic fiction of the perennially self-absorbed and selfish crowd.