Why Girls are Weird
by Pamela Ribon
(Downtown Press, $12, R) ISBN 0-7434-6980-1
***
† Is it really this easy to become famous these days? You start a website, post a few amusing anecdotes about your life and suddenly thousands of people visit? If so, Iím definitely missing out on a good thing. After I finished marveling about the societal and psychological ramifications of Why Girls are Weird, I realized that my main obligation to TRR readers is to let them know if the book is a recommended read. Well, yes and no. The novel, which is based on a website, which is in turn based on the authorís life, is at its best when it excerpts the original source. The rest of the novel, however, is a conventional Chick Lit book about a confused twenty-something with Daddy issues trying to make sense out of life and love. †

Hip chick Anna Koval lives in Austin and works as little as possible as a school library assistant or something like that (itís never really clear what she does since she never does it). While sheís assiduously not working, sheís developing a website journal about ďAnna K.,Ē who is a lot like Anna herself but a lot less clueless. Anna K. has a great boyfriend named Ian, while the real Anna broke up with Ian six months ago. Anna K. acts in local plays while the real Anna is too insecure to audition. Anna K. is witty and funny and would never admit that, even at the mature age of 24, she is confused and scared most of the time. †

Anna is surprised when she starts getting e-mails from strangers telling her they love her site, and sheís astounded to discover sheís getting 5,000 hits per day. But eventually Annaís lies and half-truths start to catch up with her. Overly eager fans try to use her to earn their own 15 minutes of fame. Annaís relationship with an appealing male admirer whose screen name is LDobler (imitating a John Cusack character Ė could anything be sexier?) is hindered by the fact that he believes she already has a boyfriend. In order to sort out her problems, Anna has to admit the truth to her fans and to herself. Ironically, the adulation of thousands of fans wonít make a bit of difference unless Anna learns to find validation from within herself. †

Why Girls Are Weird starts with a hilarious and raunchy essay on the secret Barbie games of Annaís youth that you do NOT want to share with your daughter (my 12-year old begged to read the book but I did not want her encountering the eye opener in which Annaís Barbie dolls encourage her Donny & Marie dolls to drop acid). If only the book contained more chapters like that (the How to Fake a Football Orgasm essay is also a classic), it would have been a winner all the way. But in between the Anna K. columns, the real Anna is mired in typical Chick Lit plotline, complete with gay best friend, lousy ex-boyfriend she canít quite get over and family crises. Admittedly funnier than most, and full of savvy pop culture references, but predictable just the same. †

I have to admit that thereís something about online journals that this 40-something reviewer just doesnít get. I find it vaguely self-indulgent to write about yourself and expect other people to be interested in the minutiae of your life. And are the relationships Anna develops with her fans real or not? Anna claims that she has met great people through her website who feel like a caring family. But how can you feel like family with someone youíve never met? I browsed a little through Ribonís own website, pamie.com. It is full of chatty columns about Pam and her online friends, so I guess to this generation, thatís the real thing. But it doesnít feel as convincing as having friends who youíve met through school, church or work. Maybe Iím just an old fart who canít keep up with the changing times. At least thatís what my daughter tells me when she sees me trying to use our computerís CD burner. †

I give Why Girls are Weird its props (see, I can be hip too) for making me laugh and for sending me into a philosophical tailspin about the Internetís impact on modern societyís concept of human relationships. But for now Ribon is more of an entertainer than a polished author with creative plots and memorable characters, so Iím giving her debut a qualified recommendation. †

--Susan Scribner


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