Sunday, April 12, 2009

I'd Rather Be Broke

She's So Money
Cherry Cheva
Harper Teen
Reprint 2009

Let me say what I like about She’s So Money: love the cover art and the story takes place in Ann Arbor (one of the coolest college towns on the planet). That’s all.

I have been seething for days about why I dislike this book. Let’s start with Camden. He is an asswipe with a capital A. He’s also the school hottie. He sleeps around, drinks, drops sexual innuendos almost non-stop and he can’t be bothered with doing schoolwork. Being responsible is so uncool like why would the hot, rich kid even think about anything other than having fun? Initially, I thought Camden’s character was literary device, satire. Nope, the story isn’t that kind of deep. Maya, who might as well be the completely flat and predictable Asian girl, says in one breath that Camden is repulsive and in the next is secretly swooning over him. In one scene, he kisses her because she so wanted it and who was he to deny her the gift. She not only blushes but she has this eternal dialogue about the significance of their relationship. What the frack!

And it only gets better. Camden drags her by her backpack, tells her to get in his car, drives like a maniac (she weakly protests and he responds by jerking the car, increasing the risk of getting into an accident or hurting her), picks up food (the middle age cashier is equally smitten and gives him extra fries) and booze, makes a bee line for the family hot tube, strips to his boxers and tells Asian, geek girl to get comfortable and ‘tutor’ him. A six-pack is enough to make a sane, intelligent girl who knows how to speak up, become a blubbering idiot and a helpless victim to a sexist, self-absorbed moron? This isn't cute or funny. Getting naked in front of a girl you just met is suppose to be a turn on? I think it's compromising. For some, it's enough to say hell, go with it a get naked with him.

And then there are the completely, implausible scenarios that support Maya and Camden’s deeper entanglement. Maya screws up one night at her family restaurant and the next morning, she gets a $10,000 fine from the health department. She decides to take advantage of Camden’s stupidity and accept his outrageous offer to pay her an insane amount of money for tutoring. Now how much reality do you want a reader to suspend here? I’m suppose to believe that two disgruntled customers wield the kind of influence that get the health department to send an inspector the following day (why they were upset is too stupid to even repeat)? I get being scared and desperate, but who thinks she can raise that kind of money tutoring? Earlier, Maya the all-A student freaks out about a test that she’s sure she failed because she didn’t study the night before (come on, an average student knows while taking a test whether she knows the material or not) and this same student who didn’t have time to study for this test becomes the master homework whiz for half a dozen students and starts raking in the cash? Later she enlists friends but that’s not the point.

I loathe damsel-in-distress stories. And even though she originates the tutoring scheme, Camden is the guy with the real plan (pass me the bucket). We don’t need saving and we certainly shouldn’t have to stoop so low to look to guys like Camden to save us. As adults, women will cluck their tongues about other women who end up with losers but I’ll argue stories like She’s So Money is a good example of when the conditioning begins. Are we so attention starved that we want the guy who alternately talks smack about our itty-bitties and then calls us hot? Camden is the kind of guy who will do almost anything wearing panties. I can’t help wondering if he wants to add an exotic Asian to his list of conquests and that’s why Maya is hot. Why are we okay with being objectified, and should we talk about when Maya plays the schoolgirl vixen in order to get a better tip? I wanted to smack her.

I’m not anti-guy or anti-romance or even anti silly comedy. I am anti: girls can’t think straight just because a guy is good-looking, that a smart, articulate girl is so desperate to right a wrong that she thinks a jerk can help her solve her problems, that a girl who has plans and the brains to succeed, will shrink her shirt and flirt for a dollar. I’m a bothered by the reality that a lot of readers will look past or worse say Camden is just being a typical boy. This book has done very well, and it’s done well in part because of lot of readers don’t simply like that Maya is feisty, they’d like to bounce in Camden’s car if they could. Who doesn't want the fantasy that the bad guy is really a good guy we can get? And that is disturbing most of all.

I swear I tried to finish this. I read a ton of reviews that swear this was good. I continued to skim and I get why it's liked but it doesn't work for me.


KB said...

Wow! I really enjoyed this book when I read it last year. I even bought it for the school. I thought I was hard on books! It's one of the reasons I don't like to write reviews. I like how you backed up your opinion with examples from the book. Though I must say - I really didnt think about "bouncing in Camden's car". You almost make me want to go back and re-read it. But, alas, time is too short.

I also enjoyed Good Enough by Paula Yoo. Have you read that?

Have you done a review of Twilight? Now that's anti-strong girl.

susan said...

KB, I don't write reviews as often as I'd like. I try to write at least annotations for most books I read and I post those at Shelfari or paperbackswap. I used to read 8-10 books a month but I'm really dragging this first quarter. And most of the time I'm not this critical, but the initial scenes really hit a nerve with me.

I am even more critical of Twilight. I also have it on our shelves, and I don't offer my opinion to girls who are clearly interested in it.

I read a lot of YA fiction and I am serious about pro-strong girl literature.

Anonymous said...

The title of your post reminded me of the question Michelle asked recently -

I think I've enough other books to read that I'll take your advice on this one and pass!

susan said...

Hi Aerin, I don't relish being critical of books, but I don't shy away from going against popular opinion. I think it's important not only to consider other perspectives but that we think enough of our own to share them. One of these greatest lessons I learned in college was to consider the social and political influence of literature. After awhile, being the weird chica doesn't feel so weird. lol

Danielle said...

I really don't like people like the female lead seems to as aerin said, I'll pass also. Thanks for giving your true opinion, most people wouldn't do that.

Steph Su said...

I've heard a lot of negative reviews for this book as well, and don't think I'll be reading this book anytime soon. Thank you for being honest. However, I was wondering if I might make a suggestion; you are free to take it however way you want, though I hope you won't be offended. (I don't think you will be, since you seem to be a strong advocate of straightforward honesty and no BSing.) It is important to be honest about your thoughts on a book. However--and maybe this is just me?--I think that there needs to be a difference between a review and a rant. I personally enjoy reviews that are a good balance of professional and personal. In my reviews I always try to recommend the book to a group that might like it, even if I myself didn't. I have no problems reading rants about bad books; I myself think I've done it a couple times. I would just be careful about misleading people into thinking that it is a review.

Just my two cents on changes you might consider. I am not offended by your rant at all; in fact, I enjoy its honesty. I certainly don't like whiny, shallow, stupid damsel-in-distress novels either. You might enjoy Swim the Fly by Don Calame. It's a male protagonist, but I found all the predicaments that he and his friends got into hilarious (if you are not offended by the beliefs of adolescent boys), and the characterizations quite vivid.

susan said...

Not offended and you make a good point. This isn't a review it is a rant. Maybe that was part of the problem trying to write this. I wasn't thinking review and certainly wasn't striving for balance. Good call. Thanks.

Carleen Brice said...

It sounds like the same kind of thinking behind movies like "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" where you have to ignore holes big enough to drive trucks through for the movie to work. It's funny. If the writer gives me characters I like enough, I'll happily look the other way. But if I don't like the characters either....

Doret said...

I'd rather be broke- Love That. I really enjoyed She's So Money. Though,I liked how you were able to put into words why you didn't like it. There have been times when I've read a popular YA book, and I just don't get it. Last week I read a sequel to a bestselling series. The first book I thought was barely ok, but everyone else loved it. Everyone including (online people, as well as 4 co workers whose opinions I trust) So they all love the first one I am like okay maybe I'll come around for the second book. Nope. I was like really, I just don't get it people love this, why. Did I post about it, No. because I would have to break it down, prove my points and remember to breathe. But now you have me reconsidering.

Serena said...

I have not read this book, but it sounds terrible. I would not want to pick this one up with a ten-foot pole!