“Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single” by Heather McElhatton

From Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single by Heather McElhatton:

Don’t think about the impending roundup meeting or my mother or my sister’s wedding or any of the things I was going to do and then I didn’t. Don’t think about the last ten years, which have collapsed in a lightning split-second, and even though I’m not sure what I was doing for ten years, we can be sure I wasn’t getting married or having kids or buying a house, or working on getting out of Minnesota.

We can be sure of that…

I keep thinking it’s not too late; I can still turn everything around. I could meet a guy any days now who would sweep me off my feet, and he would happen to be a millionaire just like Jane Austen planned for all us cheeky, uppity modern girls.

Jennifer is an everywoman: thirty something with a snide boss, a cubicle job writing copy for a Minneapolis department store, a Cinnabon obsession, and smarts she doesn’t quite know what to do with. Online dating is a nightmare, and she doesn’t have a date for her sister’s wedding. She’s Bridget Jones in Minnesota.

Then Jennifer meets someone, and he asks her out. He’s handsome and from a wealthy family. But as they date, her “gay bee” friend Christopher in the Visual department doesn’t like him, and her co-worker Ted is suddenly cold to her.

As I read this book, I thought I knew what was going on and where it was headed. I was puzzled by how unlikable Jennifer often was, but appreciated her sense of humor, her sharp observations, and wanted to see what happened to her. When I finally did, though, I was shocked. McElhatton utterly surprised me. Initially, I thought she was crazy. As the ending and the book melded together, though, I saw the method to the ostensible madness.

Jennifer Johnson, both the book and the character, show what we think we want, and what happens when we try to get it, and IF we get it. But there are no easy answers here, and I shouldn’t have expected any. I read and enjoyed McElhatton’s tart and clever Pretty Little Mistakes: a Do-Over Novel in 2007. What I enjoyed most about it were the unexpected twists and turns of karmic irony that seemed as much to do with fate than free will. Jennifer and her story would fit right into one of the “what happens next” scenarios from that book.

This book looks like chick lit, and much of it reads like that. Lurking beneath the surface and eventually rearing its head, though, is a complex, dark streak that takes this book another place entirely. This is not a sunny beach read, as I thought it would be. It’s something much more interesting and cool. Bravo.

2 Responses to ““Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single” by Heather McElhatton”

  1. Steph Says:

    Now I’m totally intrigued by this one, all thanks to your review. I absolutely would have panned this as chick lit, so thanks for shedding some light on this one. Also, the retro cover on the book is very cool (clearly there is no end to how shallow I can be when evaluating prospective books to read).

  2. girldetective Says:

    The figurine on the cover is a beloved object of Jennifer, who also has a dollhouse and does mean things to the dolls when she’s in a bad mood. It’s LIKE a chick lit novel, but she quietly undermines it as she goes along and by the end she’s kinda blown it to bits. Def. worth checking out.