Monday, December 26, 2011

Book Review: The Brenda Diaries

By Melissa Amster

Move over, Bridget Jones! There's a new diary writer in town, in the form of a 23 year-old cynic who lives in L.A. and does temp work for her so-called career. Check out what she has to say in "The Brenda Diaries."

Brenda spends her days volleying between various temp assignments, whether it's tutoring a vapid teenager, assisting an accountant who gives her TMI about his personal life or handling the demands of a rude lawyer, just to name a few. Her best friend is dating an old man and mooching off Brenda's hospitality and her boyfriend is only interesting when it comes to having pizza and a movie. We see all this and other sordid confessions through her diary, as well as an assortment of tweets.

I admire Brenda's dry, sarcastic wit throughout the story. She's definitely a tongue-in-cheek piece of work and reminds me of a cross between Janeane Garofalo and Daria (from the MTV series). I was picturing Ellen Page ("Juno") playing her in a movie version of the book though. I like how Margo Candela got into character for this story to the point of posting Brenda's random musings on Facebook and Twitter. The other characters in this story were vivid and humorous, as well to the point of being caricature-like or satirical. Her friend Maya was quite a piece of work, as well. She would claim to have morals, but she didn't exercise them all that well. It was amusing to see what Brenda would end up doing next in her line of temp assignments and I liked groaning along with her when she had to deal with annoying people.

What didn't work for me was first and foremost, my number one pet peeve when it comes to reading a "diary." There was dialogue! Dialogue has no place in a diary, which is a journal account of secret thoughts and confessions. If your character is having a conversation with someone, it should be done outside the bounds of the diary or summarized in the diary instead of written out as direct quotes. I also felt the story ended abruptly, as there was plenty of room for it to go a bit further. Instead, there are a bunch of pages that show tweets from Brenda. I would have rather seen these tweets incorporated into the diary, as they would have been easier to follow in the order of what happened and they could have added more "meat" to some parts. Some of the tweets were not consistent with what was in the diary, as she never actually wrote about the events to begin with. There were other inconsistencies within the diary itself. Finally, there were a lot of errors for a published story and it bordered more on the crass side a bit.

Overall, this was an entertaining and relatively quick read. I've never read any other novels by Ms. Candela, so her writing style was new to me. However, she does know how to get into the head of someone who is fresh out of school and not quite sure what they want to do with their life. I think that while Brenda might not be the best role model for them, she would be a nice ally to have in their corner.

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1 comment:

Lucie Simone said...

I don't think I could ever write an entire novel as a diary. The formatting alone would drive me batty. But I love to read them, including the dialogue!