Overall Impression: A very fun and lighthearted read. Meg Cabot works her magic again.
Now I am not normally a chick lit person. I find most of them don’t have enough plot for me, and I freely admit that I’m much more interested in dragons and hobbits than I am in how a woman will get her dream guy. That being said, I have actually acquired a heck of a lot of it from various family members and and friends, mostly just because as hard as I try, I can’t say no to a book. But also because occasionally, you do come across a good one that really surprises you.
Melissa Fuller is late for work.
She is always late but this time she has a serious excuse.
She’s just rescued her neighbour from a violent intruder and in the process become the sole-custodian of Paco, the Great Dane – not the ideal accessory for a New York city girl.
Now Mel needs help, but she won’t get it from her neighbour’s only relative – ice-cool womanizer Max Friedlander. Max hasn’t a compassionate bone in his body and he isn’t about to give up on his vacation with a supermodel just to help his sick aunt’s annoying neighbour.
Mellissa Fuller is your typical chick lit lead. She’s a small town girl trying to make it in the big city. She works for a newspaper, but is stuck writing the celebrity gossip column, and she’s been unlucky in love and just broken up with her boyfriend. But when her neighbour goes into a coma things start to look up. Max Friedlander moves in next door to look after his relatives pets. He’s good looking, he’s rich, and he has an unusual interest in natural disasters just like Mel. The only problem?
He’s not actually Max Friedlander.
He is in fact an imposter by the name of John who has been coerced into taking Max’s place as repayment for an old favour. As the two fall more in love John becomes increasingly worried. Mel is the girl of his dreams. How can he tell her the truth? And if he does, will he lose her forever?
The best part of this book for me was the structure. It is written entirely in email format sent back and forth between the characters, the majority of it during their office hours. I thought that this was a really great idea, and it made the overall story a lot more interesting and unique. Unlike a normal book it doesn’t have chapters, I wasn’t so keen on this however, as I rely on them to make me stop, pause, and check the clock (at which point I usually realize it’s something ridiculous like 4am, and grudgingly turn the light out.). Apart from the novelty effect, I also liked it because I could literally just pick it up, read half a page, and put it back down again because most of the emails were short. (Of course, I didn’t want to put it down after reading half a page but as I’m sure you bookworms know, life often gets in the way of reading.)
The email format was also interesting because it meant Meg Cabot had to utilize different skills as a writer. She couldn’t rely on elaborate descriptions of the characters and their surroundings but instead had to incorporate or imply them subtlety through the emails. I’m sure this wouldn’t have been an easy task but she manages to do it not only in a believable way, but with style too.
The only downside I can really see with this structure is that it has the potential to make the book look dated. Even over the past few years technology has moved on and people are relying less on emails. I can’t help thinking that 10 years down the line someone may take a look at this book in the same light that we look at MySpace, Bebo, or even letters and bypass it for something more current.
Meg Cabot’s writing is great as per usual. She grabs your attention from the first page with her lighthearted flair, and doesn’t let go until you reach the last page. I love that she portrays females realistically, and although she pokes fun at certain stereotypical traits e.g. all the females in the office going to the toilets at the same time to gossip, she does it in a way that doesn’t make you sigh in exasperation and look down on them for being silly. The aspect of Meg Cabot’s writing I enjoy the most however is her humour. It just comes across so naturally in her work. She doesn’t try too hard or go over the top. It feels almost effortless.
This book doesn’t have a complex plot, you pretty much know where the story is heading from day one, and it doesn’t take a genius to guess how it ends either. I mean…it’s chick lit (and yes that is a tiny bit of book snobbery your detecting, shameful I know. You should check out this discussion over at Jillian’s space if it’s a debate you’re interested in.) However I think the fact that it’s so clichéd and predictable and yet Meg Cabot has still managed to create a very funny and entertaining read, just shows how strong she is as a writer. The pace of the book is upbeat too, it avoids any unneeded stalling, dithering or self pitying. Always a plus! 😛
The characters are all very likeable, and relatable too. I’m sure many can empathize with Mel; so close to her dream journalism job, and yet so unable to reach it. There was one scene in particular that really summed up her character for me: She is walking around New York with her boyfriend and stops to purchase a hotdog at the food stand. Her boyfriend makes some sarcastic comment about how bad food like that will kill her, and she replies “Aaron, in order to die, you have to live a little first.”
Nadine is the typical sassy best friend, often encouraging Mel to take chances, but fiercely protective when she decides to attempt one of them. John is dashing, and refreshingly self conscious around women. Dolly pokes her nose into everywhere it doesn’t belong, and her favourite pastimes include name dropping, hair salons, and preying on unsuspecting men. Finally Vivica, a stunningly stereotypical ‘dumb blonde’ model WHO WRITES ALL HER EMAILS ENTIRELY IN CAPS LOCK manages to be irritating, likable and hilarious all at the same time.
I would recommend this book to any females ranging from 14+ who enjoy chick lit, and even some that don’t! Those who like strong female leads in their books, as well as some lighthearted humor and romance. I can also attest to the fact that the second book in the series Boy Meets Girl, is just as good. (I accidently read the second book first a couple of years back not realizing it was part of a series).
Writing Style: 4/5
Character Development: 4/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes.
P.S. I followed Meg Cabot on Twitter AND SHE FOLLOWED ME BACK!! Mini fangirl moment. 😀 I love that she’s so dedicated to her fans!
The Guy Next Door cover: http://bookweb.kinokuniya.co.jp/bimgdata/FC0330411896.JPG