Saturday, July 9, 2011

If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster

Jen Lancaster usually writes humorous memoirs about her life with her husband and dogs, her family and friends.  This is her first foray into writing fiction.  Turns out it is a thinly-disguised story about her life with her husband and dogs, her family and friends.  To be fair, I haven't read any of her other books and they are supposed to be quite good, or at least some of them are.  She wrote Bitter is the New Black and My Fair Lazy, along with a few others.  I think maybe she should stick to what she does best and leave the fiction-writing to others.
It started off okay in a lightweight summer beach read sort of way.  Mia, a writer of teenage Amish zombie romance novels, and her husband Mac are fed up with their city neighborhood and go looking in the Chicago suburbs for a house to buy, one that they can use the skills they learned from watching HGTV.  Mia finds the perfect house, one used in the movie Sixteen Candles, a film by John Hughes whose films she adores.  She grew up longing to live in the homes she saw in his films.  The house turns out to be more work than they thought it would be.
The book is filled with pop culture references and sarcastic asides (mostly in footnotes) which are funny sometimes although I wonder how many of them most readers would get.  There are many references to HGTV programs and John Hughes movies but also to the movie Mean Girls and Stephenie Meyers and Mr. T and Charles in Charge and so on and so on, so many that the weight of them was just too much for the weak plot that it eventually fell in on itself, just like the floor did in the book under the weight of the dropped toilet.

Things I liked about it:  It really was funny in parts.  It's also exciting in a way when you "get" a cultural reference.  Makes me feel like part of a club or something.

Things I did not like about it:  The thin plot combined with the overuse of footnotes and pop culture and too much  cutesiness (the landlord was a trust-fund 20-something named Vienna Hyatt) got to be too much for me.  Another issue for me was the excessive profanity.

Was it clean?  No, not at all.  Lots and lots of f-words.

Would I recommend it?  Nope, don't bother with this one.  There have got to be much better beach reads out there.


  1. Wasn't even tempted by this one. Bitter is the New Black is hysterical!! But, yes, it is also littered with profanity. I think all her books are.

  2. I bet it was really funny, probably all of hers are. The footnotes were the best part of the book.