Horrible Dare Challenge, you continue to erode my mental capacities! I am now too dumb to boil noodles.
Qualifier: this book was written ‘with Elise Allen’ but Duff’s name is the only one on the cover so we are going to proceed as though she were the sole responsible party.
And man, is she the queen of segues. Allow me to bring you up to speed. Page one: Clea is dancing in a club and there are people and it is
a club crowded. Page two: she feels clausterphobic, ‘packed in this tiny space as confining as a coffin. [Line break] Like my father’s coffin.’ I’m sorry, what?
With that particularly deft transition we discover that Clea’s father, Rich Humanitarian Scholar And All-Around Perfect Dude, is dead-or-missing-but-probably-dead. Clea attempts to party her sorrows away with her
2D Plot Construct bff Rayna.
And the whole first chunk of the novel is Painstaking Character Establishment. Clea is watching the news in her hotel room and it’s all, There is a FIRE, people, in an apartment with a view of the Eiffel Tower. And Clea is like, Wait. Rayna’s night-lover has a view of the Eiffel Tower! RAYNA IS IN DANGER. Now, my knowledge of Paris is slender, but I have seen the Eiffel Tower and I remember it being huge. There are probably at least, what, five apartments? With a view? (This being A Novel, Clea is right, but this being a Hilary Duff Novel, the tension lasts about eight seconds before we find Rayna, totally unharmed. I think the point of the episode is to demonstrate that Clea Reacts To Things On Account Of Her Father’s ‘Death’?)
And then she gets home from three weeks in Europe and her mother sends her a lovely bouquet of flowers to apologize for being a Busy Politician And Therefore Not Present with a card saying Welcome home, see you next week, etc. And Clea is all, ‘she didn’t mention Dad at all.’ WHAT is she SUPPOSED to say? Here are flowers to ease the pain of your father still after a year being maybe dead and therefore not home to welcome you, there’s milk in the fridge and bread in the cupboard, see you next week? (The point of the episode being Her Mother’s Refusal To Talk About Her Father’s ‘Death’.)
And the loving-but-absent-mother isn’t the only lazy stock character. Clea is rich! But down-to-earth, as evidenced by her beloved Ford Bronco and penchant for greasy diners! Her housekeeper Piri is Hungarian and superstitious! For comedy! Her bodyguard Ben is secretly (and obviously to anyone who is not Clea) in love with her! Her best friend Rayna is melodramatic and kind of slutty but automatically understands Clea’s intentions at convenient moments. There’s rather a lot of Automatically Understanding Everything in this book, which does away with the need for any pesky Exposition or Watching Things Play Out In Real Time or Figuring Shit Out Yourself.
Which, of course, means that when Clea meets Sage they have a mysterious cosmic connection that, as usual, has to do with their being Lovers Throughout the Ages. This bit, though, is actually kind of interesting, because Sage keeps showing up in her dreams as the same dude only Clea is different ladies, and when she eventually creepers into his bedroom (in a non-sexy way) she finds paintings of herself as those different ladies dying gruesome and horrific deaths. WHAT FOR IS ALL THE DYING!? This mystery is sadly swept under the worn, threadbare carpet of feeling so drawn to Sage but I hardly know him and also I have warm, friendshipy feelings towards Ben but Saaaaaaaaage has those tortured eyes and also wears a leather jacket omg so emosexy!
This tired romancey bit goes on for pages and pages, and you cannot un-cliché your clichés by lampshading them. Saying you felt ‘like every cliché‘ is, in itself, a cliché. That word is starting to look dirty. Anywhatz, somewhere near the 275-page mark, The Duffster realized it was summertime so she resolved the Horrific Dying Ladies mystery in 20 pages of info-dumpy flash-backery, deftly avoided a dramatic conclusion in favor of a weird, unresolved fizzle, and went out to sun herself. The End.
And then there’s some weird class-issue stuff sort of lurking in the background, like how Clea’s parents ‘always made sure Rayna went to the same private schools [Clea] did’ and took her on all the family vacations. Like, awesome, you have purchased the daughter of your wife’s horse-nanny to be your rich brat’s extremely biddable companion. Money can’t buy you happiness only if you don’t have enough of it. And then in the Final Flashback *spoiler?* we discover that Sage’s lower-class friend Giovanni betrayed him out of lower-class jealousy. Poor people, they be hatin’!
I, though poor, am not completely hatin’ and I do have to give props where props are due, which is really only for the scene where Clea is all, ‘Ben and I are like brother and sister. That’s gross.’ And Rayna shoots back, ‘Hey, I read Flowers in the Attic.’ And then I LAUGHED AND LAUGHED. Oh Rayna, you may be Clea’s pet minx but you had literally the only good line in this novel.
Hilary Duff, you are a true 21st-century renaissance woman, in that you do a shit-load of things but none of them terribly well.
Three caterpillars, at least two of which are for the Flowers line.
(Also, I would like to point out to TY that I am kicking her HDC ass 2-1.)