Review: My Best Friend’s Girl, Dorothy Koomson

I promise, I am not a book snob.  I never have been.  I have read a few Sophie Kinsella and quite enjoyed them although the plot details have not stayed in my memory which is odd for me.  I loved Harry Potter and get annoyed when people slate it for being populist.  I am also currently watching Grey’s Anatomy which I recognise is just an over-blown melodrama.  I am a woman of wide-ranging tastes and I am without prejudice in terms of books, films, TV, music etc.  My problem with My Best Friend’s Girl does not come from it being fairly low-brow in its style but rather in it being unremittingly dreadful with no redeeming features anywhere.  This is, and I say this beyond the shadow of any doubt, the worst book I have ever read.  The reason why I read it was because last year I was starting swine flu and one of my flatmates felt sorry for me and threw me in a book to read and as anybody reading this can probably guess, I read fast.

Lets start first of all with the clichés.  There are many.  We have the ‘cute kid’ who lisps and says “P’omise you’ll never leave me guv’na?” Well not quite but close enough.  There’s the guy who the ‘heroine’ (in inverted commas because she’s pathetic) apparently hates but actually ends up sleeping with for no rational reason.  There’s the cheesy dying friend who has a last really good day before suddenly dying.  There’s the old flame. There’s the Terrible Betrayal tra la la. Basically, there is nothing that is anyway original anywhere in this novel. The premise of the best friend dying and leaving the childless woman her young child to raise is not a new one, it’s been done for decades.  In Friends, during one of the Thanksgiving episodes, Rachel’s sister Amy satirises this by hoping out loud that Ross and Rachel die so that she gets custody of their baby and a movie can be made about her embracing motherhood.  The only slight (emphasis on the slight) twist in the tale is that the little girl is the illegitimate love child conceived between Camryn’s best friend and Camryn’s boyfriend.  Tra la la di da.  

I never like books that over-use brands.  I can cope with a trip to Tescos here and there but when this book tries to make me interested in a character’s Dolce and Gabbana t-shirt then I am about ready to jump out a window.  I am not impressed by brands, I don’t care about them and they don’t advance the plot.  It’s cheesy and unimaginative.  Appearances are very important in this book, Camryn goes on and on about her weight not being an issue and comes across as insecure and irritating and then falls into a relationship with her boss who criticises her weight.  They’re just pathetic people.  

The boss Luke really did not work at all as a plot device in my world view.  Supposedly, he meets Tegan, Camryn’s new adopted daughter, anyway Luke and Tegan hit it off so well that although Camryn does not like him at all and certainly does not want to sleep with him she is stuck with him in her life because of Tegan.  And surprise, surprise, Camryn ends up sleeping with him anyway.  Now that is ludicrous.  In my own life, the guy my Mum went out with when I was little was my great friend, we used to play Sylvanians and he made me stickers with my name on.  He was a big feature of the first five/six years of my life, I adored him.  After he and Mum split up, I Never Got To See Him Again.  Ever.  Ever.  And I was a pretty cute kid at that stage, I’ve seen pictures – I had pigtails.  Does Koomson seriously expect the reader to believe that Camryn is just going to put up with Luke because after one meeting he got on ok with her kid?  No, no, no, no.

I get that this romance novel genre thingummy probably does do love triangles fairly frequently but in this case the two guys thing just seems really stupid.  Camryn is supposedly in love with Nate and or Luke, both of whom are complete morons – one slept with her best friend and the other one  is just unpleasant.  All that could just be set down as romantic colour-by-numbers if the resolution is not so fumbled and incomplete.  Luke leaves because he’s fed up of Camryn being in love with Nate, Camryn gets s letter from Beyond the Grave from dead best friend advising her to get together with Nate.  Flash foward two years, Tegan Never Forgot Luke and again this is stupid, I was completely over loss of Stepfather #1 by then and he’d been around way longer.  Anyway, in the flash forward, Camryn has been sleeping with Nate for two years but not committing for rather wimpish reasons given that there’s a child around and then Luke comes back freshly divorced and he and Camryn magically reconcile.  I read it and thought “What the …?”

Romance novels should be about escapism and love and happiness and wish-fulfilment – not about settling for some guy who’s already run out on you once because for the past two years the best you’ve been able to get is your cheating ex-fiancé.  This book was a Richard and Judy book club read, which surprises me because it’s not in any way uplifting like the usual stuff they pick and it’s just poorly plotted, not good at what it’s supposed to be and none of the characters are likeable.

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My Best Friend's Girl by Dorothy Koomson
Published by Bantam Discovery on March 25th 2008
Pages: 480
ISBN: 0385341326

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4 thoughts on “Review: My Best Friend’s Girl, Dorothy Koomson

  1. The worst book you have ever read, ever?! Wow. Not sure it's that bad. I borrowed this book on holiday, aged about 15, after running out of books to read, and it was better than I had expected after looking at the cover (too many pastel colours, among other things). It was a quick, fluffy holiday read which killed the last afternoon on the beach and I didn't hate it, but agree there were a lot of over-used cliches and unoriginal characters. Generally I think you make some good points, but could you not argue that Koomson's rehashing of cliched characters within the romance genre is an attempt to show the disappointment of modern romance in a post-feminist age? Or am I interpreting the book more than Koomson intended?! I believe feminism (i.e. equality of the sexes) to be a good thing, but in recent years, many women have left settling down on the back burner in the hope that they can do the independent girls'nightsout-travel-study-career thing before finally waking up to the tick-tock of their biological alarm clock and settling for the nearest suitable male to do the mother-wife thing with … I am not defending Koomson's shoddy writing but I suppose one god thing about the book is that it prompted me to think about how women (as individuals) make choices, and how much these choices are affected by (a desire/need? for) men and children (i.e. OTHER people).

  2. Agree with you about the pastels. Hadn't thought of that. I do see what you are saying about the main character's poor life decisions but it is clear that she is just incapable of making a good one vis-a-vis relationships. She has the 'really bad boss' who of course, of course, she wouldn't dream of sleeping with. The next thing you know, she's slept with him. So little self regard and it's not as if there is any kind of character development because she settles for him again after he's gone off and married and divorced some other woman. That's what I object to. You're completely right that the past ten years have been dominated by the rise of career-focussed women who 'forget' to have offspring but Camryn is not one of these, she's a neurotic who ricochets from one bad relationship to another and doesn't learn anything along the way.

  3. Just read this book but wouldn’t recommend it. The concept of the a childless adult fostering her friend’s daughter could have been handled differently, and to much greater effect, if the novel had focused on realistic themes such as child protection, social workers, grief, healing and solid friendships. Instead the main character is self-absorbed and obsessed with her love life, while the two men that she is involved with are weak and unlikeable.

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