Thursday, July 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Review of "Not My Type" by Melanie Jacobson

**Originally Posted on cj's bookshelf on October 17, 2011**

Title: Not My Type: A Single Girl's Guide to Doing It All Wrong
Author: Melanie Jacobson
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Date: September 2011

Synopsis (from Goodreads) -
Twenty-three-year-old Pepper Spicer is not living the dream. She ended her engagement at the last minute because her fiancé — a musician and soon-to-be reality TV star — wanted her to sacrifice her own career ambitions for his.

Now she's stuck at home sharing a room with her little sister, trying to pay off massive debt for a wedding that didn't happen, and spending Friday nights Facebook-stalking everyone who has a better life. Her therapist father urges her to choose her career dreams and count her blessings by writing weekly thank you notes, but gratitude is a tall order when she botches an important job interview and has to settle for writing an undercover dating web-zine column — the

last thing in the world she wants to do. Still, as Pepper (byline: Indie Girl) chronicles her bizarre and hilarious blind dates, she gives her father's challenge a try and slowly finds herself leaving self-pity behind. Life takes a major upswing as Pepper's column hits the big time and she tastes the exhilarating thrill of success. But there's one tiny problem: the intensely hot man she's falling for is having issues with her job (again). Will Pepper trade her personal ambition for another chance at love?

My Review:
I have had a very rocky relationship with LDS fiction over the years.  I blame Jack Weyland and all his soapy-sappy-Sunday-School-watered-down versions of "realistic" (ha!) LDS fiction where it takes someone dying of some rare disease to give the lovable-yet-misguided protagonist their "Come to Jesus" moment and suddenly everything in life is wonderful.  I thought I had another one of "Those Books" on my hands when "Not My Type" floated across the automated check-in system at work.  Didn't help that the main character's name is "Pepper Spicer" (I wish I could say that this name is just something cutesy the author made up, but I would not be surprised if there is some poor unfortunate BYU co-ed with a name like that. I don't know what kind of ill wind is blowing down in Utah County that people name their children such weird things).  I was pretty well ready to blow this one off as another sappy Jack Weyland-knock off about a poor girl whose best idea of rebellion is to read the Salt Lake Tribune and hang out in Sugar House with all the people who fancy themselves hippies, yet could only get their liberal club cards punched as far as the east side of Salt Lake City (poor things. You almost have to feel sorry for them).

However, I was not prepared for the character development Melanie Jacobson had in store for her heroine. Or her loving-yet-honest (and very refreshing) take on Utah culture - especially the dating scene.

Pepper lives with her parents and works full-time in an effort to pay off a wedding that never happened.  Her ex-fiance, Landon, broke off not just one wedding, but two, because his music career came first.  So, Pepper is living with her parents (sharing a room with her seven-year-old sister) and working a crappy full-time job at a sandwich shop in order to pay-off the debt from the second wedding that never happened.  Needless to say, Pepper is not happy about where her life is and the book begins with her making everyone else miserable because she is miserable.  Her dad, in an effort to administer tough love, gives her two choices - (1) find a new job and a new attitude (for the latter, Dad assigns Pepper to write a thank you note once a week to someone who's done something nice for her) or (2) find an apartment, pay rent and take longer to pay-off the wedding debt.  Luckily for the story, Pepper chooses Option 1.

The weekly thank you notes are key to this being an enjoyable story because Pepper's attitude does change and she does find joy in the weird circumstances she winds up in.  She does find a better job writing for an upstart online magazine for the twenty-somethings.  Her column: "Single in the City," where she goes on dates with guys she meets online and writes about the dates and how disastrous they are (all under a pen name, of course - because who would go out with a girl who's going to write about the date and post it to the internet?)  However, Pepper's newfound change-of heart conflicts with her desire to make fools of these boys... plus she ends up meeting a really nice guy (through a rather hilarious chain of events.  Well... I thought it was funny. I won't spoil it for you, dear reader. Seriously - did not see that one coming).  She also adjusts her career expectations for the better and it's wonderful to see her shift from the whiny, heartbroken sandwich shop manager to a self-assured, happy reporter.

As with most LDS fiction, there are certain elements of Utah culture that are fun to see (considering Utah isn't a place that's featured in a lot of mainstream fiction writing).  I especially loved how Jacobson included the abject idiocy and, quite frankly, pants-wetting the local media engages in when someone from Utah gets on one of those stupid American Idol shows (it's kind of embarrassing, to be truthful).  There are a few scenes that are Church-related, but nothing too doctrinally-heavy gets explored, which is nice for people who aren't familiar with the particulars.  And anything else that's unique to our culture that other people might not fully understand is either explained enough for the purposes of the story or the reader can figure it out well-enough that it doesn't ruin the narrative.  Honestly, I think anyone - LDS or no - would enjoy reading this book.

Bottom Line: All in all, a nice fluffy romantic comedy where the characters just happen to be LDS.  Some lovely character development and lots of witty dialogue makes for an enjoyable read.  It's refreshing to see something even halfway decent come out of the local publishing companies and I'm glad I picked this one up.

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