Mad About Mia
by Millie Criswell, contemporary (2004)
Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-8041-1994-5

Millie Criswell's Mad About Mia reminds me of a Three's Company episode - it was probably funny twenty years ago, but in 2004, the humor feels flat and unsophisticated. Three's Company, unlike I Love Lucy reruns, doesn't seem that funny now that I have on TV shows like, say, Two Guys And A Girl and Coupling (the British version) - comedies that provide a more updated and humorous (sometimes wacky) look at the modern dating scene. It's the same here with Mad About Mia - it tries to so hard to be hip, "in", and urban but ends up coming off like some relic stand-up comedy routine.

Do people still use exclamation marks, question marks, and italics to drive home the punchline anymore? And we still stuck in some rut where an inept heroine is still considered quaint and charming instead of pathetic?

The plot of this book is meant to be taken in a light-hearted manner, but it is nothing more than a poorly constructed montage of scenes meant to be "cute". Mia DeNero is short-sighted, isn't sure that she can actually shoot outside the training range, has no training, no experience, no money, but she is still going to make her bodyguard business work. I think I'm supposed to laugh at that one.

The hero Nick Caruso thinks that what she lack in experience and ability, she makes it up in, er, spirit and passion. Nick wears tweed and other ugly clothes, so he's a nerd, see? Ha, ha, isn't it funny? No one can see that he's a hunk because he wears tweed! He's actually an FBI agent pretending to be a writer so that he can spy on a money laundering operation in Little Italy. Don't ask me why he needs to hire an incompetent bodyguard if he's on an undercover operation. I think he, like Mia, just wants to be cute.

Mia's bodyguard stint apparently consists of she mostly showing him around town, which is a chance for him to meet her intrusive Jewish-Italian clan (thankfully these monsters are not as intrusive as the author's previous books). Real bodyguard work doesn't apply to Mia, I guess. The bad guys are bumbling caricatures, the family members try very hard to be the new Joe Vinnies of cool (they come off as eugenics-obsessed sociopaths though), and Mia and Nick are so superficially written that they come off like dancing ragdolls on the stage where Millie Criswell is the puppetmaster pulling their strings.

I'm sure some readers won't mind a story with a ridiculous plot and one-dimensional characters if they find this book funny. I don't find this book and its crude nerd jokes and "Ohmigod, I wanna have sex but I must not sleep with him, wait, maybe I do want to - NO!" psychobabbles funny - I find the humor flat, the characters flatter, and the plot is so silly that this story feels like the Ally McBeal script that made even David E Kelley cry in pain. All in all, Mad About Mia is just a book where an author tries to be cute in all the wrong ways.

Rating: 53

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