By Sarah Pekkannen
Available now from Washington Square Press (Simon & Schuster)
THESE GIRLS follows three women as they try to balance their careers and personal lives. Refreshingly, that doesn't involve sacrificing ambition for romance. All three women have romantic relationships, but the book does not end with them being fulfilled by getting a man. The ideal balance for each woman is different, but it truly is a balance--not giving up one thing for another.
Cate has just been promoted to features editor at Gloss magazine and her roommate Renee is competing with two coworkers for the position of beauty editor. Meanwhile, Abby ran from her job as a live-in nanny to her brother's home in New York. That brother happens to be a reporter currently working for Cate and formerly dating Renee. Thus, Abby becomes their third roommate when he leaves the country for an assignment.
Cate doubts she can handle her new job due to a secret in her past. Most everyone in the novel considers Renee beautiful, but Renee struggles with being a curvy girl in a rail-thin magazine world. Things go off the rails when she finds her old roommate Naomi's diet pills. (Through in a bit of cyberbullying to make Renee's storyline an issues twofer.) Abby admits to having an affair with the father at her job, but keeps secret the truth which made her run from a little girl she loved.
Abby's storyline wasn't the weakest, but it fit awkwardly into THESE GIRLS structure. It was the only story told mostly through flashback, and Abby just didn't spend as much time with the other girls. I thought Sarah Pekkanen pulled off a brilliant conclusion that tied the themes of Abby's stories into the novel as a whole, but until that late-coming a-ha moment it just didn't quite work for me.
Pekkanen's verse is imminently readable. I thought THESE GIRLS might be too heavy to read on the drive to North Dakota, but I finished it far sooner than expected. There might not be explosions or car chases, but I found THESE GIRLS almost impossible to put down. (Hey, I had to eat lunch. There aren't that many places selling hot food in rural South Dakota.)
If you read chick lit, then I advise you to pick up all three of Pekkanen's novels. If you don't, then she's a great author to give a chance. She writes compelling stories about relatable, modern women.