Friedman, Aimee (2006). A Novel Idea. New York: Simon Pulse, 234 pages.
Summary and Evaluation: Sixteen year old Norah is anxious to experience her first kiss, but she has bigger things to worry about when she finds out that unless she picks up some extracurriculars she can kiss her college goals good-bye. With the help of her friends, Norah starts a book group at an indie bookstore and, low and behold, James walks in. He's attractive and friendly, and they even have the same taste in books - except maybe the romance novels that Norah secretly loves. She follows the schemes of her favorite heroine, but finds that romance on the page is much different than romance in real life.
I don't need deep meaning in everything I read, but I do tend to choose books that have more than an escapist appeal. I never knew mind candy could be so sweet. This is just downright fun for book lovers. It is no magical literary masterpiece, but it does have a lot of stereotypical, lovable characters. Norah has a best friend who is trying to convince her family she doesn't need to go to college and a busy-body gay friend who both help her out of some tough spots. Then, there's the awkward romantic moments like Norah's almost first kiss. Norah's over the top application of her favorite romance novel spins her into lies about her many imaginary admirers. It follows the romance formula perfectly seeing as Norah is basing her plan on it. But a comical twist at the end makes it slightly unusual. The best part of the book is that it constantly pokes fun at chick lit and romance. The author even references her book, South Beach, when Francesca, a preppy member of the book group, starts naming off all of her "shallow" book preferences. I appreciated that the author did not take herself or this book too seriously.
My concern with this book is readership. The simple prose and fast-paced narrative tempt me to offer this to reluctant readers. But allusions to Weetzie Bat, Speak, and even The Devil Wears Prada may alienate a reader who is not familiar with these books. Someone more involved with literature may be turned off by the trite prose. But on the other hand maybe they, like Ime, will enjoy a lighter read.
Booktalk Hook: Here's my script for a short booktalk. "Everything that Norah knows about love comes from her contraband collection of romance novels. Desperate to beef up her college applications, Norah starts a book club and suddenly romance becomes a reality. James saunters into her club and she is smitten; they even have the same taste in books. Eager to win his affections, Norah turns to lessons from her secret stash of romance novels. Unfortunately, in her life things just don't work out the same way. Can Norah find a way to win James over?"
2 weeks ago