the opposite of me

My grandfather was a wonderful, wonderful man, but one who had the unfortunate habit of assigning his grandchildren certain roles in the family.  This was never more evident than the spring break where my sister (then in high school) and I (in college) drove out east to visit him and other family for a few days.  Upon our arrival, Poppy says to her, “You get prettier and prettier every day.” And then, in what I’m sure was a sincere effort not to leave me out, he says to me, “And you get smarter every day.”

So it’s not particularly surprising that I was drawn to a book about two very different sisters and their struggle to define themselves.

In Sarah Pekkanen’s debut novel, The Opposite of Me, Lindsey is a successful New York advertising executive.  Her life has seemingly been defined by two factors: not being as pretty or popular as her sister, and her desire to succeed in spite of that. For as long as Lindsey can remember, she has built her achievements upon her intelligence and her work ethic: two areas where she is sure she outshines her (fraternal) twin, Alex.

But when an account presentation goes wrong, Lindsey finds herself saying good-bye to her job, her apartment, and her best friend Matt and moving home to the D.C. area — living, for the first time in her adult life, not just in the same town as her parents, but also as Alex, who is as beautiful as ever and is planning her wedding.  She has no doubt that she will soon have her life back on track, but it doesn’t take long for her to start wondering if it was ever on the right track to begin with…and to realize she may not know her sister as well as she thinks.

Lindsey’s story is not exactly break-the-mold chick lit.  In fact, it at first seems fairly predictable – though well-written – in terms of romantic entanglements, career crises, and family angst.  But as Pekkanen introduces a few twists in the plot and her characters begin to gain depth, she shows her potential to rise to the top of the genre.  Her portrayal of Lindsey’s reluctant transformation is both humorous and genuine.  Like Jennifer Weiner, Pekkanen is clearly focused on creating a story that develops her protagonist, not just her protagonist’s romances.  And for me, that’s usually what separates the good from the mediocre in this style of novel.

If you’re not into chick lit in general, The Opposite of Me probably isn’t going to convert you.  But if you are, give Pekkanen a try — she’s definitely a writer I’m going to keep an eye out for in the future.

WHO: Sarah Pekkanen
WHAT: The Opposite of Me
WHERE: Purchased e-book
WHEN: May, 2010
WHY: Heard about it online, was intrigued
HOW: E-book

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~ by Molly on June 17, 2010.

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