Unlike a Virgin
You know that bit in The X Factor, when the singer tells everyone about the rocky road they travelled to pursue their dream? Well, that’s Gracie Flowers’ story.
Gracie is very focused for a woman of almost twenty-six. Her favourite book is The 5-Year Plan: Making the Most of Your Life. And her five-year plan is going very well. That is, until she is usurped from her big promotion by a handsome, posh idiot; she is dumped by her boyfriend; and discovers her loopy mother is facing bankruptcy.
Hormones awry and ice cream over-ordered, a dream Gracie thought she’d buried ten years ago begins to resurface. A dream that reminds her of the girl she used to be and everything she wanted to become.
I wanted to enjoy (Un)like a Virgin. Really, I did. From the sparkly front cover with the blonde smiley girl and the big red heart, to the blurb at the back promising an X Factor-style storyline, I was expecting glamour, romance and a nice escapist read.
So I was a little disappointed to find that three-quarters of the way through the book, we still hadn’t set foot inside a singing audition. Instead, the book is about an estate agent, a baby, grieving over the loss of a parent, and getting dumped.
Now I make it sound as though it’s all doom and gloom, and really it’s not – at least Lucy-Anne Holmes cracks a lot of jokes along the way – but there was just something about the writing style that didn’t click for me. I found it hard to warm to the main character, Gracie. Why does a chick lit heroine need to be ditzy and clueless and own a car with the handles falling off? Why can’t they just be organised and normal? I didn’t believe that Gracie’s mother needed to be so weird and eccentric either, and I didn’t warm to Gracie’s thoughts about the baby (but I’ll avoid giving away the storyline with that point).
I have read other reviews of this book where the reader has raved about it, so clearly it is well-loved by Holmes’ fans, but there was something about it that didn’t pull me in. The plot didn’t seem fast moving enough – I just kept thinking, “When are we going to get to the bit about the singing competition? Why is she still an estate agent?” – and I didn’t feel engaged with the story at any point. The only concept I liked in the book was Gracie’s ’5 year plan’, because it inspired me to pull out a pen and draw up my own version.
I really wanted to like this book, but I find it hard to engage with a story when I’m not rooting for the characters until the very end.
Thank you to Little Brown for sending me this book to review.