NAL, $12.95, ISBN 0-451-21114-6
Contemporary Fiction, 2004
What a Girl Wants is a typical Americanized “four girlfriends” chick-lit story where slapstick and verbal wit reside cozily within the pages. I have an enjoyable time reading this book because some of the jokes are very effective, but it isn’t long before I grow weary of the incessant comedy and start wishing for something meatier – like characters that resemble human beings even a little bit.
Hayley Jane is one of the many young, hip, and clueless young people trying to find wealth and romance on the start-up rat race. She wants a raise, a man to love, and appreciation for her writing skills, although not necessarily in that order. A dead colleague and a ditzy encounter with Lt Grant Hutchinson sets Hayley on a screwball adventure for love and career. Meanwhile, cheering her on are her three friends: Audra the Successful Career Woman stereotype, Suz the Outgoing Mildly Slutty stereotype, and Diane the Good Girl stereotype.
While I do enjoy the author’s humorous descriptions of life in the rat race, Hayley soon starts to grate because she is clueless, self-absorbed, and too prone to whining. Okay, that describes nearly every heroine in the chick-lit genre, but there are likeable whiners with wit and style and there are just the loud types that whine for the sake of whining. Hayley falls dangerously close to the second camp. Why is Hayley so unbelievably clueless that she follows her friends’ advice to a tee – often with embarrassing results?
What a Girl Wants doesn’t quite succeed in standing out among the glut of Bridget Jones/Sex and the City wannabes in the chick-lit market. It’s a readable book, but at the same time, I can’t help wishing that the characters are less of a clueless stereotype, the plot a little tighter, and the humor a little less dependent on the heroine making a fool out of her emotionally unstable and often inconsistent self.