My tastes range far and wide, and I'm not snobbish about giving books a chance. I love all kinds of books - from chick-lit to medical history to biography to mystery.
Occasionally I come across a book that really pisses me off.
Today, we are going to discuss ones of those books.
Ladies and gents, I give you:
White Girl Problems, "by" "Babe Walker" - brought to us by Hyperion Publishing:
I randomly saw it on the shelf and thought "ha ha...funny..." total chick-lit/faux memoir - what it would be like if Sydney Andrews wrote a memoir. Fun.
I honestly did not give two pieces of crap if the "memoir" part was entirely fictionalized or not. Don't care. Just want to be entertained.
And while I wasn't particularly enjoying the story and was already ripping apart the writing, I was still reading it. And then I discovered a huge, glaring error in continuity and the writer in me went from eye rolling at poor writing to "oh, hell no!" on my internal shit-o-meter.
Let's take a look at Chapter 1, Page 6:
Okay, so Babe's grandmother Tai Tai left her at the store on her first birthday, and this inspired Babe's father to hire Mabinty, the Jamaican nurse to watch her. Okay.
Now let's take a look at Chapter 3, Page 28:
Oh, she was hired when you were two days old, not a year old?
So which is it, because there's 363 days difference between the two, you know.
You can't keep track of one of the single most basic pieces of continuity over the course of 22 pages?
I immediately put the book down, accepting that I was not going to review it.
But I was so worked up that I kept coming back to check that I had read and interpreted the sentences right - because while small errors are bound to happen, a five year old would have picked this one out. This is the kind of lazy bullshit my 7th grade English teacher would've dropped someone down to a "D-" for. What's worse - it's not like this is a little rinky-dink private publication - it was published by a major publishing house! How many people read this book before it went to print? Did anybody?
So I started doing research to look into the origin of this book some more. I began to wonder if "Babe Walker" was telling fiction in the form of memoir (which I originally thought) or if it was an actual memoir. And I discovered that yes, it IS fiction (thank God) and that Babe Walker herself is actually not enough a real person, she is the creation of three people: David Oliver Cohen, Tanner Cohen and Lara Schoenhals.
And I started to read reviews to see what other people thought of this book. Overall, it seemed to be pretty much a love/hate spectrum with very few people feeling "meh" about it.
I read TONS of reviews and now I'm not only concerned about the authors but about the world. A ton of people read it as an actual autobiography rather than a satirical fiction. A lot of these same people were pissed about the spoiled, bratty nature of the central character, Babe. (It's like that time I watched that documentary about Walmart and the reviews were all about whether Walmart itself was good or not, rather than the actual presentation of the movie.) Also...really? What did you expect from a book with that title? Have you not been on the internet or turned on the telly in the past ten years?
(I also read a lot of reviews from people where I encountered the phrase "I seen" and I think we know how I feel about that. I fear for America's children.)
I read several reviews that compared this book to Jen Lancaster, either favorably or not. Some said she was "no Jen Lancaster" while others said Babe Walker was "funnier and truer than Jen Lancaster."
Really? Here's the issue: I'm a big fan of Jen Lancaster. I have read (almost) all her books and I own several. I follow her blog. She's an actual person who writes actual memoirs of things that actually happened. (Note: Jen Lancaster doesn't know I'm alive or anything, so it's not like she's paying me to defend her, and I'm quite sure she doesn't need me too. Just saying.) I don't care if a book is fiction and told in the memoir format - there's even something very fun about that. But don't compare that to real memoirs written by real people.
On the other end were people who think this book was hilarious, witty, and well-written.
Well, it could have been.
But it was such crap.
And that's what really bugged me. Outside of the character, how was the book itself? How was the writing? I couldn't find a single review that focused on the actual writing style, the content and formation of the words.
Problems I had within the 50-or-so pages I read:
1.) The dad is supposedly British, but the writing for his dialogue is just as homogenized American as everyone else's. Throwing an occasional "bloody" in a sentence doesn't make a character British.
2.) The texting dialogue was utter shit. There is no way anyone of the age of 17-22ish texts that way. I'm in my thirties and very much NOT HIP and I use more abbreviations in my texts.
3.) The spoken dialogue between the characters - especially the friends - sounded like what a forty-year-old would think a "young person" sounds like today. (Which is even more disturbing given the ages of the writers, but we'll come to that later.) It was extremely faked - like people reading lines - and badly.
4.) The voice was not authentic. That is, Babe Walker is supposed to be a spoiled, upper-class, bitchy, L.A. socialite, but her exposition is very much middle-American-girl-next-door-except-kinda-bitchy. Additionally, the book tries too hard to be blase about drugs. The drugs aren't the problem I had - it was that in trying to make it sound all "it's no big deal," it comes across as super forced as if the author is saying "Look how cool we are, we've been doing coke since we were fifteen. We're so cool. Look at us." Instead of it just being, it's wedged in there.
Another matter on the voice of the narrator: the book is meant to be something Babe is writing in rehab from which she looks back and learns about herself and discovers she wants to look deeper and blah blah blah. It's meant to be a conversational tone, stories written by a girl in rehab about her problems.
You know what? Shit written in rehab doesn't sound like this. Trust me on this.
There will be a couple of sentences of conversational tone and then it's back to exposition without emotion.
So let's look at the 3(!) people it took to create this stink pile.
Honestly, I don't know these people. Never heard of any of them. I'd never heard of the #whitegirlproblems thing on Twitter. But apparently this is a whole thing. (And in all fairness, the faux socialite's twitter feed may be hilarious and well-composed. But the book is not.)
I don't know the two brothers or their friend - maybe they are as bad as their character, maybe they are really good, kind, people. I don't know. What I DO know is that they've been in this world - the world of spoiled actors and heiresses. They're NOT old. They're young enough and get around enough that by all counts, they should be able to write this fauxmoir (my new word for it) - really-really-really well. It should be authentic and true and something that really hits the core of that world.
Nope. The writing is terrible. The voice is not authentic or true. It's forced. It has big, fat, glaring continuity errors (without which, I would've just written it off as another poorly written book).
So that's White Girl Problems for you. It probably would've been better called "Rich Girl Problems." (I did see a lot of reviews stating that, and I have to admit that yes, I have been known to complain about my "first world problems" but I certainly didn't have any of the alleged "white girl problems" listed in this book.) So "Rich Girl Problems" would definitely be more apt.
To finish this post off, I'm going to suggest some books you might want to read in place of this:
Rachel's Holiday, by Marian Keyes (chick-lit)
- Rachel is an out of control brat. When she finds herself in rehab, she thinks it'll be like a long spa holiday. That's not really what she gets.
Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann (Fiction Inspired by Reality)
- Kind of a classic. Surrounding three women and their fast-lane lives. These are women you will genuinely both love and love to hate.
Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen (Serious Memoir)
- The book is better, and this is significantly evident with this. Seriously, don't even bother with the movie.
Under the Duvet, by Marian Keyes (Memoir)
- Amusing personal essays about everything from shoes to rehab.
Bitter is the New Black, by Jen Lancaster (Humorous Memoir)
- An actual memoir telling what happens when a rich narcissist gets knocked off her pedestal.
Hunger Point, by Jillian Medoff (General fiction)
- A fiction that centers around two sisters, their family, eating & psychological disorders. (Apparently now a Lifetime movie. Huh. I confess, when I read this several years ago, I never would've guessed it would be made into a movie.)
Also just watch the first few seasons of the original "Melrose Place" and follow Sydney's storyline.
So there you are - pick your poison, there's something better than White Girl Problems out there for everyone, no matter what you read or watch.