Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Air Kisses, Zoe Foster

Posted by lea at 3:34 PM
This is a hard review to write, because I really like Zoe Foster. She's the type of person I'd like to have as a friend.

I know she can write, because I follow her beauty blog at primped and I'm not even keen on beauty products. I read it because her posts are funny and informative. From what I can tell, she's funny, self-deprecating and rather charming, so I had high expectations for this book.

Air Kisses is about unlikely beauty editor Hannah Atkins, who works at Gloss magazine and is a thoroughly modern young woman. Like the best chicklit heroines, she's not too highly polished. She's a little klutzy, well grounded and pretty-despite-herself (we know this because of the number of times she spills food on her clothes, and is informed by other characters how adorable she is).

The book starts with Hannah getting dumped by her hunky newsreader boyfriend, but we don't feel anything particularly about this because we (the readers) haven't met him. She then blunders through a number of unnecessary and unfulfilling relationships before ending up in the arms of the guy we knew she should be with all along, causing agonising tedium and predictability along the way.

Parts of the novel have Foster's own brand of charm (the little humorous asides and observations), but much of it is cluttered with unnecessary details that don't progress the plot, increase our understanding of the heroine or even act as a humorous anecdote. Case in point: something about toenail polish in a taxi and wearing strange slippers. Wha...?? It's like one of those times your friend tells you something HILARIOUS that happened to them and falls over laughing, but it's a you-had-to-be-there moment that loses its humour in the telling.

As a result, the book is way too long and meandering. The most satisfying bit, the part you wait for the entire book, is then shuffled into the last few paragraphs on the last page. The guy she ends up with is the only one she has practically no meaningful contact with throughout the book, which again leads to us not caring very much instead of oohing and aahing like we're supposed to.

Hannah as a heroine is mostly likeable but too weak to admire or aspire to, and every single stereotype you could possibly imagine in chicklit is represented here: the one-dimensional glossy working girls, the supportive best friend, the gay pal who gives bitchy advice, the good-looking guy who falls in love with the heroine, the second good-looking guy who falls in love with the heroine... you've seen them all and you've seen them better.

The best part of the book are the little beauty editorial bits that begin each chapter. For example, did you know that you can kill a cold sore with nail polish remover? 

As I've said, I know Zoe Foster can write. What I think she needs is a good editor to bounce the plot, pacing and characters off. It's like this book came straight from her computer without the necessary shuffling and editing and re-editing that a good book needs. There are lots of examples but the one I can think of off the top of my head is where Hannah wryly mentions that her best friend's word of the month is 'fierce', but she only uses it once, then Hannah uses it several times throughout the book herself in the narrative. I know it's a little thing, but it's these sorts of inconsistencies repeated that the editor is meant to pick up on. Someone needs to be ruthless with the manuscript to turn it into good reading material.

With Air Kisses, the bare bones are there but they haven't been sculpted into anything worthwhile. Just, unfortunately, more blah in a genre overloaded with it already.

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