Job at a major fashion magazine? Check. Catty coworkers? Check. Boy trouble? Check.
The story has all the makings of standard chick-lit, but Van Newkirk’s tight style, fleshed-out characters, and funny, occasionally poignant writing elevates the narrative to a higher level. Brooke is a peon in the internet division of The Stitch, where she shares workspace with three friends: childish, vengeful Ashley, professional Li Ming and their sidekick Dana. After a breakup with her boyfriend of six months, the girls introduce Brooke to dating site Crush.com, and the adventures begin. Van Newkirk effectively captures the joy and loneliness of single city life, as well as her heroine’s heartache: â€œThat’s what true romance is, I think. Tiny points of light that are scattered all over, and for only the luckiest people, those points of light come together to form recognizable shapes, heads, lips, hands, wedding rings, baby strollers. For the rest of us it’s something more shatteredâ€¦[a] chipped mug. Cracked glass. A funhouse mirror.” A few hilarious but plausible dates later, Brooke finds that she must choose between the beautiful and fun–but shallow and pretentious–Nightynight, and the quirky and talented–but sullen–Crushedout. Meanwhile, the appearance of an awkward new coworker, Sara, brings out the worst in Ashley, and the author’s rendering of female maliciousness and backstabbing proves particularly riveting. The story ends on a particularly mean note, which seems odd in light of the lessons learned, and one character experiences a dramatic personality change that is too conveniently explained away.
Minor quibbles aside, entertaining, affecting and truthful.