Sunday, July 11, 2010

Book Review: Perfectly Dateless

Perfectly Dateless: A Universally Misunderstood Novel. Kristin Billerbeck. 2010. July 2010. Revell. 256 pages.

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. So I guess I have a problem. I am a bit of a perfectionist, and my life is anything but perfect.

Our heroine Daisy Crispin has so many problems. No, she's not being abused--physically or sexually. No, she's not addicted to drugs or alcohol. No, she doesn't have an eating disorder. No, she doesn't cut. No, she isn't a compulsive liar or thief. No, she's not grief-stricken from the loss of a parent, grandparent, sibling, or best friend. No, she's not being stalked. No, she doesn't have cancer. No, she's not pregnant. But she's suffering none the less. Why? Because her mom makes all her clothes. And though she could buy her own--from an approved list of stores--with the money she makes from her job, she chooses to save her money for college. And wearing handmade clothes (with handmade labels) instead of designer clothes is just one of the ways our heroine, Daisy, is suffering. She has the most embarrassing parents in the universe. She's sure of it. And they're super-strict: she's also not allowed to date.

I found it extremely difficult to like Daisy. That's not to say I sided with Daisy's parents. I may not like Daisy, but even I have to admit that her parents cross a couple of lines. Like when they perform at a school assembly, talk about how lonely and invisible their daughter, Daisy, feels, and then rap about peer pressure. I would cringe right along with Daisy. But does having embarrassing parents really excuse Daisy's flaws?

I didn't like how Daisy treated her parents. I didn't like how she felt justified in bending the rules, sneaking out of the house, keeping secrets, telling lies, etc. I didn't like her attitude. But. At the same time, I didn't like her parents' attitude towards her. Just as Daisy was disrespectful to her parents, I found her parents weren't really being understanding and supportive of their daughter either. Especially when it comes to their daughter's choices in colleges, in majors. Using the "we only want what is best for you" speech to specify one college, one major, no exceptions. If you don't do exactly what we tell you, then you're a selfish brat. I have no problem seeing Daisy as a selfish brat. I really don't. But selfish because she doesn't want to follow her parents' dreams for her when it comes to choosing a college, choosing a major, choosing a career? Selfish because she wants to follow her own dreams, make her own choices? I don't think that Daisy is being selfish by being interested in neuroscience.

So I didn't like Daisy, I didn't like Daisy's parents, how about her friends? Daisy has a few friends. Claire is Daisy's best friend. And she's a sad case. She actually has something worth complaining about her--her dad has left her and her mom, her mom has gone to Hawaii on an extended-extended vacation, and the maid quit. So poor Claire is left all on her own--with neither parent aware of the situation--for most of the book. (We're talking months and months.) Claire who has been ever-desperate for attention continues down an unhealthy path. And Daisy just wants Claire to go shopping with her, wants Claire to take care of her, to help her out with her problems.

There are two other friends mentioned by name. Neither worthy of mention when it comes to plot. Which is part of the problem I have. Why make friends exist in the first place if they're only going to be stereotypical? Angie Chen is the Asian-American teen with less of a social life than Daisy because she's super-good in math and music. Sarika Singh, an Indian, is again a teen with a "less-than" social life--at least when it comes to guys--because her parents are traditional and believe in arranged marriages. How many times are Angie and Sarika mentioned? Maybe two or three times? Do they even have any lines? I'm not so sure. We're just told that Sarika will one day marry the man her parents choose for her--a man from India. And we're told that Angie doesn't have time for parties or boys because she's too busy being smart.

How about love interests? Well, there are a couple of guys Daisy is interested in. Chase being the dream-guy. And Max being the one guy not on Daisy's list of potential prom dates. He's new. He's Argentinian. He can tango. And flirt. And he loves Jesus too. But. She hasn't known him since kindergarten. Max is probably my favorite of the two.

Perfectly Dateless follows the oh-so-dramatic senior year of Daisy Crispin. Chances are you'll like this one better than I did. Maybe you can sympathize with Daisy's problems. Her not having a boyfriend. Her wanting to go to prom more than anything in the whole wide world. Her thinking that having that one perfect prom date for the prom picture will mean that only good things are in store for her in the future.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


Amy said...

I think I liked this more than you, I didn't actually think Daisy's behavior was that outrageous or unforgiveable for her homelife, but I do agree about the stereotypical characters. That was unfortunate.

Becky said...

Amy, I don't think Daisy's behavior was unforgivable by any means! I think she's a bit immature, but I think she does have great potential. A little less selfish and Daisy could be a good daughter, a good friend.

Michelle Sutton said...

My two cents. I didn't like Daisy's internal thoughts about her parents or the way she talked to them. While snarkiness in chick lit can be funny, it's not endearing when it is done toward one's parents. I struggled with liking her for that reason.