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Thursday, January 31, 2013

BlogHer Book (Club) Talk: HERE I GO AGAIN, by Jen Lancaster

cover image, HERE I GO AGAIN via indiebound.org Here I Go Again: A Novel
Jen Lancaster (Facebook) (Twitter)
NAL (January 2013), Hardcover (ISBN 0451236726 / 9780451236722)
Fiction, 320 pages
Source: Publisher
Reason for reading: BlogHer Book Club

The BlogHer Book Club is sponsored by Penguin Group. BlogHer arranged for me to receive a copy of this book as a Book Club participant, and compensates me for this review and participation in online discussions. All opinions expressed are my own.

Opening lines (from the Prologue):
“Every high school has a Lissy Ryder—you know, the girl who’s absolutely untouchable. She goes by many names, but you might have known her as the Prom Queen.
The Head Cheerleader.
The Mean Girl.
The Bitch.
She was the richest and the prettiest, with the blondest hair, the thinnest thighs, and the hottest car, and she never let you forget it. Nothing made her happier than stealing your boyfriend, just to see if she could.
And she could.
Of course she could.
She was Lissy Ryder.”
Book description, from the publisher’s website:
Twenty years after ruling the halls of her suburban Chicago high school, Lissy Ryder doesn’t understand why her glory days ended. Back then, she was worshipped...beloved...feared. Present day, not so much. She’s been pink-slipped from her high-paying job, dumped by her husband and kicked out of her condo. Now, at thirty-seven, she’s struggling to start a business out of her parents’ garage and sleeping under the hair-band posters in her old bedroom. 
Lissy finally realizes karma is the only bitch bigger than she was. Her present is miserable because of her past. But it’s not like she can go back in time and change who she was...or can she?
Comments: There are two kinds of people--those who couldn’t wait for life after high school, and those whose lives peaked in high school. Melissa Belle “Lissy” Ryder is the second kind, but she hasn’t spent the last twenty years pining for her glory days; rather, she’s been living them as if she were still in their midst...despite all contrary evidence, which includes losing her job, her home, and her husband. But she’s in for a rude awakening at her high-school reunion, as one classmate after another confronts her with her own rudeness at the time. The next morning, she’s offered an unusual opportunity to make things right...which leads to other things going shockingly wrong.

After becoming one of the early blog-to-book successes with Bitter is the New Black, first in a series of humorous memoirs, Jen Lancaster made her fiction debut two years ago with If You Were Here. In Here I Go Again--the resemblance to the title of a Whitesnake song is thoroughly intentional--she mixes the snarky humor and knowing pop-culture references that have marked her earlier writing with authentic-sounding dialogue, a dash of fantasy and magical realism, and an unexpected amount of heart.

This is a story about second (and third) chances, karma, and consequences. It’s a story that illustrates that it’s never too late to develop self-awareness, and that sometimes it takes a long time to become a grown-up and stop becoming your mother. I’m pretty sure it’s intended on Lancaster’s part that Lissy starts out as a caricature--Here I Go Again follows her journey to become something more. She stumbles a bit along the way, and there are probably more surprises for her than there are for the reader, which is a way of saying that some aspects of the novel are predictable and a little too neat.

However, those are minor complaints about a fast-reading, funny novel that’s less light than it looks. I’m reading and discussing Here I Go Again with the BlogHer Book Club this month, and I think it offers a lot for book clubs to talk about.

Rating: 3.75/5

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