I don’t know why I insist on having blogger’s block when a quick glance at my Reading Chronology tells me that I need to play some serious catch up in the book review department. I’ve got books read in Jan. that still needs reviewing. Nobody is putting a gun to my head, but I follow a general rule: if I can finish the book, I can review it.
So let’s start with my most recent read: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich.
One for the Money is the first in the Stephanie Plum mystery series. You might have heard of it. The ‘powers that be’—the New York Times Bestseller List—certainly have.
This is the story of Stephanie Plum, a thirty-something, tough as nails Jersey girl turned bail bonds enforcement agent, A.K.A. bounty hunter. Recently laid off from her thankless job as a discount lingerie buyer, her car repossessed, and in danger of eviction, Stephanie Plum enters her cousin Vinnie’s bail bonds office seeking a filing job. She leaves as a bounty hunter. A very bad bounty hunter. Her first assignment is to track down ex-cop turned outlaw Joe Morelli. Morelli and Plum have a history: he charmed the pants off her behind an éclair counter when she was sixteen and then never called her again. She ran him over with her Buick. Let the battle of the sexes begin…
I’ve seen Janet Evanovich novels everywhere, never knew much about them, never saw past the mass market paperback package, never had a desire to pick one up. I’ve since become a more open-minded reader, ditched my literary high horse, and finally decided to give Janet Evanovich a chance. I’m glad I did.
I had a good time. It felt like I was reading one of those hard-boiled detective novels—the noir fiction of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler—except from a female’s perspective. Stephanie Plum shoots out more quotable one-liners and has more attitude than Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe rolled into one. Remember the role of the femme fatale? I see Joe Morelli working the claws, whacking Stephanie over the head with 100% Italian libido (wait, that sentence sounds so wrong, I don’t even know where to begin).
I liked Stephanie Plum. Despite the odd ball job swap from lingerie buyer to female bounty hunter, the Plum character seems more true to life than say other thirty-something year old heroines I’ve read about in the past. In fact, I find it admirable of Evanovich for creating a down-on-her-luck, tough talking, wisecracking Jersey gal who’s out of a job, out of a car, and out of luck and yet, there’s something respectable about her. She’s still got dignity despite hiding from the repo man. Stephanie Plum reminds me of a lot of my neighbors so I guess what I’m trying to say is that this character and her blue-collared Trenton backdrop hits close to home.
I was beginning to tire of thirty-something heroines strutting to their publishing/fashion/advertising/art gallery jobs and returning to their implausibly spacious Manhattan apartments to bemoan about their love lives, their yuppie “problems.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Sex and the City, but there’s a fine line between watching it for half an hour and reading about it for several hours. I can’t help but feel a sense of disconnect. I can’t relate to them. I don’t know what it’s like to live in this high powered world, to jam my feet in Manolos, to feel like I own Manhattan. Their problems never feel immediate or threatening. It’s as if they inhabit a fantasy world where I, the reader, can pretty much predict that everything will come up roses in the end. What about the repo man? Now, that’s a problem.
I can relate to Stephanie Plum. She’s the heroine of the working class. She could be my next door neighbor who I went to elementary school with and now works nights at Albertsons. She could be the skinny sixteen year old girl who lives in Camelot-the peach stucco apartment complex on my street—and trust me, it’s no Camelot.
She could be me.
When I was a teen, I use to idolize the thirty-something chick lit characters. Maybe when I grow up, I’ll strap on heels and power walk my way down Fifth Ave. or to my snazzy job as editor of Vogue, curator of the Met, partner of a law firm. Maybe when I grow up, I’ll have class. After all, that’s why I went to college: to learn about class (to buy class in the form of tuition fees) and to erase seventeen years of blue-collared living. It took years to feel proud of where I came from.
And reading about a character like Stephanie Plum makes me feel prouder. She’s so comfortable about her situation, so defiantly unashamed of being unemployed, so lacking in self-pity (okay, maybe she might pity herself some, but she never dwells on it), so full of action, so determined to become a bounty hunter despite all the disparaging remarks, so comfortable in cussing out those who deserve it, that she earns my respect.
This book makes me rethink my self-image. When I grow up, I don’t want to be an elite Manhattan socialite. I want to be like Stephanie Plum!