Okay so I realized it would get too expensive to buy both Kindle and audio versions of every book, so, no matter how convenient it is to seamlessly switch between the two experiences, I think I’m gonna have to read / consume two books at a time, one on audio and one on Kindle. Right now I am reading Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman and I am listening to the latest Gone Girl copycat megahit Luckiest Girl Alive. And ‘reading’ (from now on I’m just gonna say that audio listening is the same as reading) these two books has made me realize they’re basically the same. They’re part of that genre of woman-centered crime novels that arose after the success of Gone Girl. I’ve had mixed experiences with these books (as one tends to have with all genres). It’s taken me awhile to figure out which ones are worthwhile and which ones are empty.
As with YA novels, these books tend to be strongest when they’re carried by an immediately distinctive voice. The best of these books, in my opinion, are the ones that’re as smart and observant as the best contemporary YA and chick-lit, while also having a strong suspense element. It’s basically the best of all possible worlds.
And that’s what both of these books do. Girls on Fire is about two girls who become best friends in a tiny Pennsylvania town? And there’s some mystery involving one of the girls and the suicide of a popular kid? So there’s suspense, but mostly it’s about two people becoming best friends and angsting out together.
Luckiest Girl Alive is about a twenty-eight year old woman, an editor at a woman’s magazine, who’s planning her wedding to her banker boyfriend. And she’s kind of awful. She’s totally artificial and status-obsessed. She’s like a Bridget Jones who actually succeeded in achieving all of her resolutions. But here too there’s some mystery involving high school. And I don’t know. I don’t know what makes this book so compelling. I think it’s because it’s so real. There are so many people like this: lost women who are preparing to be married to guys they don’t really like. People who have spent all their lives trying to win a game that they never consciously chose to play. And so often people like that are dismissed, as if they don’t have any interior life, but that’s wrong. They do. You don’t act this way unless you have some deep reservoir of pain. Shallowness isn’t the result of a lack of intelligence or soul; it’s a defense mechanism.