December 15, 2005


Confessions of a Boyfriend Stealer. By Robynn Clairday. Delacorte Press. $7.95.

The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman. By Louise Plummer. Laurel-Leaf. $5.99.

     Readers ages 12 and up will immediately identify with the characters in these books and likely enjoy the far-fetched plots, provided that they realize they are far-fetched.  Robynn Clairday’s Confessions of a Boyfriend Stealer is told in blog form, starting with a section called “Behind the Confessional Curtain” by protagonist Genesis Bell.  This section helps identify the target audience immediately by revealing that Gen is 16½, loves various junk foods, has musical tastes that “fluctuate with my moods,” has a “basically dysfunctional” family life, and loved The Blair Witch Project and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The book is a series of posts and ripostes (re-posts?) about Gen stealing not one but two boyfriends from not one but two of her (former) best friends.  Gen keeps busy explaining what really happened and trying to figure out why, while other postings argue about whether Gen really set out to be a boyfriend stealer or whether everything was the fault of “her best friends, the Terribles – CJ and Tasha!  They are total nasty, conceited skanks!”  The complicated plot revolves around Gen being an aspiring documentary maker.  Like an emotional whirlpool, it pulls in everything from religion to Gen’s mom and sister being interested in the same man.  It’s a modern melodrama, for sure, silly and unbelievable and absolutely not to be taken seriously, but fast-paced and frequently fun.

     The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman is fun in a different way.  Louis Plummer, whose previous book, A Dance for Three, was gritty and dark and in many ways unpleasant, takes things much more lightly here.  Kate wants to write about her romance with the great-looking Richard, but she hates romance novels and knows how sappy they invariably sound.  Still, she herself has sappy feelings for Richard, although she also has the (inevitable) complicated and conflict-filled home life, so she actually uses a romance-writing phrase book to help her put her story together.  The result is often highly amusing: “My father, age fifty-four, could fall hopelessly in carnal love with Fleur St. Germaine, leave my mother, age forty-five, and me, his computer, his classroom, his phonetic alphabets, and Minnesota, and go off to some beach somewhere with a twenty-one-year-old college student.  It happens all the time.”  There are also sections (in different type) called “Revision Notes,” in which Kate considers different and better ways she could tell her own story.  There is plenty of navel-gazing here, but there is also genuine feeling and not a little tenderness.  This unusual book will not appeal to teens who want to get right to the heart of a story, but for those who like to wander in characters’ minds a bit, it will be a most pleasant journey.

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