Emily's Reasons Why Not
The premise of this book is smart: instead of chasing after Mr. Right with increasing desperation, the heroine decides that maybe she should try to avoid Mr. Wrong. She even goes to therapy, something many a Chick Lit heroine ought to consider. However, the range and depth of the reasons Why Not only serve to highlight how narrow and shallow she can be.
Emily Sanders is a SSW (Single Successful Woman) hitting thirty and feeling lonely. She wants a husband and kids and a white picket fence to go along with her career and dog. Somehow, though, she only seems to find losers – men who are just wrong for her. Finally she’s decided to seek professional help, from therapist Dr. Deperno. His advice is to stop focusing on the search for Mr. Right, and to start trying to avoid Mr. Wrong. He gives her homework, making a list of ten reasons why she ought to have known better than to go out with the Mr. Wrongs in her past.
The book covers almost three years of Emily’s therapy with Dr. D, some in flashback as she relives her fling with David, the president of the Hollywood entertainment company where Emily is an up-and-comer in the PR department; with Craig, the man who’s alone on his honeymoon in St. Croix because his fiancée ditched him at the alter; with Stan, the guy who maybe is and maybe isn’t straight; and with Reece, a pro baseball player. Emily falls for each of these guys because they give her that “flutter, flutter” in her stomach, and that’s the feeling she craves. But they can’t seem to give her everything else she craves, at least not for long, and she’s frustrated and fed up with it.
This is Chick Lit, so Emily has the usual complement of good friends, including the standard-issue gay friend who would be the perfect man for her, if only he weren’t gay. She has father issues. She goes for long periods without sex and then can think of literally nothing else. She also has a lot of reasons why not. This is because she has so many requirements; she only really wants a man who needs her with a burning, everlasting all-consuming passion. Phone calls every day, twice a day. Roses. Gifts. Hot sex. A great bod. Perfect teeth. Money and success of his own. The instant a man shows signs of needing space or his family or anything that is not her, Emily freaks out, and often walks out. Despite claiming to want a stable, dependable guy, Emily is really only drawn to the opposite type. She made me think of the comedian who joked that men are as loyal as their options; guys like George Clooney (who apparently fits all Emily’s other requirements) are never going to need Emily as much as she wants to be needed.
The main point this book gets across is that the more you look for reasons why someone isn’t right, the less right they become. When a man starts looking more and more like Mr. Right, Emily’s quickly able to do something that illuminates a reason Why Not for him. When she’s alone in the home of one of her men, she starts going through his things and finds condoms in his overnight bag. The cheating bastard! Of course, she met him while he was away from home, and the condoms came in handy then, didn’t they?
For Chick Lit, there isn’t much overt humor. There are some wry observations on life and dating and singledom. Emily follows the well-trod footsteps of heroines who are much more wed to their cluster of good friends than they could ever be to a spouse. Her dog, Sam, is the most steadfast male in her life, and honestly her relationship with Sam was the most moving thing in the book. It is also worth noting that while I’ve rated the sensuality as “warm,” some of the language is fairly frank. But even when the language bordered on graphic, the sex itself was pretty tame.
Emily didn’t appeal to me because she made such bad choices in the first place: is dating the president of the company you work for ever a good idea? Of course part of the humor of novels like this arsies out of the disastrously bad choices the heroines make, but in this case it was just bad. Nothing was really funny about her trip to see Craig and finding he’d invited his entire family to stay with them on what she thought was a romantic weekend alone. Nothing was really funny when she freaked out after discovering her much older new boyfriend had some pharmaceutical help between the sheets. Emily veered between naïve, narcissistic, and so very picky, I never worked up much affection for her.
For readers who’d like to see a Chick Lit heroine get some therapy, this book might appeal. For readers who want laugh-out-loud funny, it might not. Emily might be a little older than the usual heroines of her genre, but she’s really not any wiser. And sadly, this book isn’t really anything special.