St Martin’s Press, $7.50, ISBN 0-312-98785-4
Contemporary Romance, 2004 (Reissue)
Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me reminds me why I generally don’t like Bridget-Jones type of chick-lit stories. I’m sure many people will find thirty-three year old Minerva Dobbs adorable but I can only take so much of her incessant whining about her weight before I wish she’d choke on a tub of a chicken masala. She embodies the worst of the narcissistic self-absorbed chick-lit heroine from page one, when she starves herself and keeps berating herself for being overweight and dumping on everyone else for never letting her forget that she’s overweight.
Maybe Min has a good reason to be peeved. Her sister, the freaking beautiful skinny sister, is getting married so the pressure is on for Min to beat the biological clock. Then her boyfriend dumps her. It gets worse: Min overhears David telling his buddy Calvin Morrisey that David would bet $10,000 that Calvin can’t get Min in bed within one month. (Hey, David didn’t). Min is furious but she needs a date to the wedding. Hmm.
For maybe the first ten or so chapters, Bet Me is pretty good as a vicarious escapist trip. Cal is nice – he falls like an elephant off the balance beam and he can be too adorable for words. But soon the story falls into a rut where Min and the women in this story act like fools or tools or even both. Min becomes too neurotic for me with her incessant moaning and whining about everything in general. It gets to a point where I actually understand why she is so unlucky in love. How could any sane man spend ten minutes in her self-loathing pity party for one without wanting to stab his eardrums with a pair of scissors to end the misery? What is Cal thinking? Then again, he’s not human. He’s obviously a cipher created just to boost Min’s self-esteem.
To make things worse, every thin woman in this story is depicted as lacking or just plain horrid. It is not as if the story needs to get any more dumbed down, really. The plot descends into unfunny farce to the point that we actually have people trying to get other people to accept the $10,000 check. Huh? If I lose a $10,000 wager and the winner doesn’t seem to want the money, I’d quietly change the locks to my door and my phone number.
It is quite strange that this book wants to advocate some love-yourself philosophy, which is commendable, but it is insecure enough to demonize thin women as if to hide the fact that the fatso females in this story are acting most obnoxiously. There are plenty of one-liners here but that doesn’t hide the fact that the story becomes repetitious, nonsensical, and overly-reliant on one-liners by the late third to make up for the fact that the characters are running around in circles in a story that isn’t going anywhere. The eye-rolling Jackie Collins-style epilogue is the final straw. Jennifer Crusie has a great sense of humor and her comedic timing is good but Bet Me is a story that has a great premise but a lousy execution.