Thursday, July 03, 2008

How To Be Bad, by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle

Told in alternating voices (presumably by alternating authors), this novel tells the classic road trip story of three girls - rich girl Mel, Christian Jesse (whose Mom has cancer), and Vicks (for whom the road trip to see her boyfriend is officially instigated). Naturally enough, they have little in common when they start and a lot of common ground to bond over by the time they are done, as they trip through Florida and battle alligators, hurricanes, pirates, and few near-miss boyfriends.

Three powerhouse writers and enough publicity surrounding the book to make it hard to ignore, but the overall result is a big disappointment. All three of these writers have done better work on their own. As with Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist (which I also failed to appreciate as much as the other critics), strong writers don't make good collaborators. There can be some fun in watching the authors fight each other to control the story, but there is a jarring sense as we cross over each chapter that there is no consensus about what the story should really be about? Friendship? Family? Finding inner strength? Alligators? Is the story serious or silly? It's all a bit much. A clever writing workshop project perhaps, but not material for a published novel (unless of course you already have an excellent track record that you can afford to blow). Ignore the hype and skip this book.

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