If you enjoyed Emily Giffin’s 2004 debut novel, Something Borrowed about two girlfriends who betray each other’s friendships, you will be curious to see what happens in Giffin’s follow-up novel, Something Blue. This is the Bad Girl’s story, the one in which she gets her much deserved comeuppance…or does she?
Darcy Rhone is the high school golden girl who never lost the gilt. She’s got the looks – the Breck-girl hair, the taut and tanned body, the perfect features – she’s got the charisma, and she’s got The Life. That is, until her best friend Rachel steals her fiancé, Dex. Dumped for the first time in her life, Darcy finds herself on the begging side of a relationship, and it’s not a fun place to be. Though everyone is sympathetic at first, things quickly fall apart. Because while Rachel was sneaking off to be with Dex, Darcy was making time with one of the groomsmen, and now she’s pregnant and Marcus, the father, is a slacker who has no interest in taking over Dex’s former role as head of Darcy’s fan club. Unable to face the scorn and shock of her friends and family, Darcy decides to take a sabbatical in London with her childhood friend Ethan. She’s determined to remake her life into the Continental version of what she almost made for herself in Manhattan. But life throws Darcy a couple more curves, and she must reassess her goals and herself.
As a protagonist Darcy is interesting to read about but a real piece of work. She’s beautiful and glamorous, charming and occasionally insightful, but she’s also entirely superficial, self-centered, melodramatic, and childish. She blames everyone but herself when her engagement to Dex goes sour. She lacks any sort of emotional depth and thinks of people entirely in terms of what they can do for her. She’s also a fashionista snob who judges others by their footwear. Her priorities are intensely screwed up. At her first pre-natal visit what most disturbs her is her inability to judge whether her new female obstetrician is hotter than she is. It’s all, all, all about Darcy.
Ultimately, the reader’s enjoyment of this novel depends on whether she buys Darcy’s repentance and personal rehabilitation. While redemption stories rely on the protagonist having flaws, Giffin spends far more page time establishing the fact that Darcy is a lousy person than she does redeeming her. For fully two-thirds of the book Darcy gets to act out. She gets to drink while pregnant, spend her entire savings on a new flash wardrobe, use her friends, and complain about her problems. Giffin’s writing is engaging enough to pull the reader along, but Darcy’s hedonism does get hard to take. Then, all of a sudden, after one unpleasant conversation, she decides to do a complete life makeover. It was difficult to believe that one relatively low-key confrontation would have this effect. Sure, Darcy had had her feet kicked out from underneath her, but she’s a fighter and fully capable of coming out on top again. Though it would have ruined the book for me, I honestly didn’t understand why she didn’t just have an abortion and ease back in the fast lane.
Also, Darcy’s redemption requires fairly little proactive behavior on her part. In many ways other people simply take over the hard tasks of making her life work again. There are people in life (I’ve met several) who do manage to fall on their feet every time, people who laze around and still come back on top. But in fiction karma is, one hopes, more just and alert. Frankly, I wanted Darcy to suffer more and work harder for her happy ending.
Finally, Darcy’s friend Ethan plays a big role in this book as both supporter and catalyst for change. Unfortunately, as a character he was far more interesting in Something Borrowed. Here he seems to have lost his edge and spark; his interactions with Darcy border on the tepid.
Something Blue kept me up reading until late at night, and I was tempted to give it a higher grade. But, ultimately, I was not satisfied with Darcy’s redemptive journey and did not feel she truly deserved her ending. Still, I wouldn’t have missed the resolution to the Rachel/Darcy conflict; it brought tears to my eyes and was a fitting ending to an emotional conflict. For that alone, this book is worth reading.