A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Jenna loved everything about the 80s – the hair, the fashion, the music – and most of all, Tommy Seer, pop legend. He was the one for her until he died when she was twelve. Her fiancé Adam was all set to take his place in her heart until he left and Jenna resigned herself to loving the one man she can never have. That is until a freak accident sends her back to 1987 and slap bang into Tommy’s world. But how will she convince this stranger she knows so well that they’re destined to be together?
This is most definitely a book of two halves. The concept is great as I very much warmed to its mixture of chick lit and time travel, with a hint of murder mystery, or potential murder mystery. The problem, at least in the first half, is Jenna, our New York heroine. I struggled to believe in a 36-year-old newly single woman who was still desperately in love with Tommy, the heartthrob of her childhood and teenage years, so much so that she couldn’t really commit to anyone else but him. She was also very passive and I kept wanting to shake her and shout. Her friend, Aimee, is way too patient with her.
Things look up slightly when Jenna tumbles through time (though the fact that a storm is the means of travel is very clichéd, I must say) and ends up in 1987, just a few months before Tommy dies in a car accident. Her confusion and discovery of where she is, with the differences in New York then and New York now, were nicely done.
Still, a lot of things are overdescribed in this novel, and Jenna spends many paragraphs and pages worrying over one thing before turning to another and then coming back to her first concern again, so a great deal of information is repeated ad infinitum, to no apparent purpose. It needed a lot of cutting in order to sharpen the focus. Because there is some good and witty writing in here, which I would have preferred to have been brought out more:
This was a brand-new, revolutionary feeling. It was also upsetting. She’d never imagined a moment involving Tommy Seer in which she would want to do anything but gaze at him adoringly and love him. Cherish him. Worship him, even. Then again, she’d never previously imagined him to be so irritating.
And there is further good news: the moment Tommy is given his own voice, the book really begins to take off, in a serious way. Tommy is a great foil for Jenna and, indeed, she becomes a lot less wimpish from that point on. At first he seems quite stand-offish and difficult, but we soon get to know his background, life and dreams in such a way that he becomes a far more rounded and vibrant character than the unfortunate Jenna can ever manage to be:
As she (Jenna) came closer, he saw the frown wedged between her brows, as usual. She worried her lower lip between her teeth, and looked as if she was debating nuclear disarmament with herself. How had he managed to fall so hard for such a serious woman? It was a mystery. But he felt absurdly light-hearted as he watched her worry and frown and march with such force down the city street. She might be serious and strange, but she was his.
I did wonder if the author is really more comfortable writing men than she is with writing women in this book. They certainly leap more from the page.
I also had some trouble with the nature of the love relationship between Tommy and Jenna. It would be so nice to have a literary sexual relationship described where the first time isn’t perfect, but sadly that’s not the case here. Indeed Tommy appears to do it so many times in one night that he surely wouldn’t have any opportunity to breathe. But perhaps I’m being picky. The greater irritation is how quickly they fall in love and, only a little while later, are desperate to commit to each other in rather gushing terms, which seems unrealistic, certainly in Tommy’s case. However I have to admit the plot is a key driver and it would be difficult to do otherwise, really.
The last sections of the book are superb, especially as the mystery of who is trying to kill Tommy seriously kicks in, and the tension mounts as Jenna (at last!) starts being proactive and zappy and trying to save her man. I was gripped from this point on, and, no I didn’t guess who it was until the reveal. A scene which is itself fraught with tension. Great stuff. Though I was truly sorry that we never get to meet Jenna’s much talked about Aunt Jen – there’s an opportunity lost indeed. And it crossed my mind that Megan Crane is really a crime writer (perhaps humorous crime?) rather than a chick lit author, but that’s on the evidence of this book alone so it’s just a guess.
Anyway, it’s a good finish and I ended up rather enjoying the book, though I’m not sure whether I’d necessarily reach for another Crane novel automatically. But, assuming you can get past the slow start, this one is definitely worth a read.
I Love the 80s, Quercus Press 2011, ISBN: 978 1 84916 999 8
[Anne is going through something of a chick lit phase, much to her surprise, though she rather wishes the book covers weren’t quite so pink, After all even her own chick lit novel doesn’t have a pink cover (well, not terribly pink), so it must be possible …]