What do Stephenie Meyer, "Sixteen Candles" and HGTV have in common? Give up yet? They were each mentioned several times (or more), along with other pop culture icons, in Jen Lancaster's latest (fiction) novel, "If You Were Here." (Named after a song from "Sixteen Candles." Would she want it any other way?)
Meet Mia MacNamara, an Amish zombie romance novelist who is so obsessed with John Hughes that she convinces her husband (Mac) to buy a house featured in one of his films. However, her dream house quickly becomes her worst nightmare, between toilets falling through the floor and contractors unwilling to give them the time of day. And they can't forget the "unwelcome wagon" of nosy and downright mean neighbors. As repairs continue to pile up and money starts dwindling down, tensions begin to rise between Mia and Mac. Will this house bring about the end of their marriage too?
This is my first experience with the ever-so-popular Ms. Lancaster, and it will not be my last. I had such a great time reading this novel. I kept laughing out loud and then cringing in sympathy for Mia. She said everything I'd love to be able to say, only better than I ever could. She's a combination of Samantha Joyce from "Sammy's Hill" and Clare Finnegan from "Not Ready for Mom Jeans." Yet she stands on her own as a strong, unique and very funny character. The supporting characters were also memorable and hilarious. My favorite is her grandma, Babcia. I also loved that there were footnotes. They were so clever and added a lot to the story.
I didn't find much to criticize except that it wraps up almost too neatly. Maybe Ms. Lancaster was trying to take after John Hughes in that way. (How many kids take down burglars and live to tell about it? How many teens ditch school and have their jealous sisters cover for them? I mean, really?!?)
Overall, I loved this story and hope it won't be Ms. Lancaster's last fictional novel. It would make an awesome movie too. Of course, some actors from John Hughes films would have to make cameos. In the meantime, I can't wait to read her other books.
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