Friday, August 06, 2010

I Now Pronouce You Someone Else Fails to Win My Undying Love

(Image from Barnes & Noble)
Bronwen Oliver was switched at birth. Sure, it seems unlikely, but consider the evidence:
  • Unlike the other members in her family, Bronwen has brown hair. Underneath the blonde dye job her mother insists on, anyway.
  • While Bronwen is passingly pretty and has plenty of friends, she's not exactly Homecoming queen material. Unlike her mother, who's still beautiful and svelte enough to earn the title.
  • Bronwen detests ketchup. Enough said.
  • Although she's a good girl - she doesn't drink or smoke and refuses to have sex before she's married - Bronwen's far from perfect. Unlike her brother, St. Peter (aka Jesus), who practically walks on water.
  • Bronwen wants to be a journalist. A writer in her family tree? Highly unlikely.
  • Although none of the other Olivers will mention his name or touch the topic of grief with a 10-foot pole, Bronwen desperately misses her dead father.

It's uncanny, really. Why Bronwen's so-called mother hasn't figured out the mistake yet is beyond her. It's pretty obvious to Bronwen that somewhere out there, a sane, brown-haired, news-loving family is wondering how they ended up with a blonde, manicure-obsessed, ketchup-loving, Homecoming queen in the making. All it would take is a little switcheroo to bring the world back into balance.

A girl can dream, anyway. The fact is, Bronwen can't understand her family. Jacquelyn Oliver Van Horn is more concerned about Bronwen's roots showing through than trying to understand her own daughter. Whitt's a nice enough stepdad, but he still hurt Bronwen in a deep, unforgivable manner. Peter's perfect, of course, because he's not around enough to be anything but. And then there's the rest of the Oliver clan. Certifiable doesn't even begin to describe them. Can anyone blame Bronwen for wanting to escape? For longing to join a new family?

Handsome, well-bred Jared Sondervan offers Bronwen the perfect solution: marriage. His family is close, loving and, most of all, sane. So what if he's older (a senior in college), more experienced (in every way), and ready to settle down (with kids - the sooner the better), he's still the sweetest, most thoughtful guy she's ever met. Best of all, she loves him, truly and deeply. She'll still get to experience the college scene she's been so looking forward to, she'll just do it with a ring on her finger. Wedding the perfect man, slipping into a model family, becoming someone new - it's exactly what she's always wanted. Isn't it?

The more Bronwen contemplates her upcoming nuptials (AND works on the school newspaper AND fills out college applications AND plans her wedding AND tries to fit in coffee dates with her BFF AND attempts to live up to her mother's every expectation AND ...), the more she starts to worry about the big questions: Who is Bronwen Oliver? What does she want from her life? Is she ready to sacrifice "me" for "us?" Is getting married right out of high school the perfect start to fulfilling her every dream or is it one big, colossal, mistake?

I've been mulling over I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan for a few days now, not because its content is so deep and heavy, but because I've been trying to pinpoint the exact reason it rubbed me so wrong. It's not the writing itself, although the prose is a bit stilted. Maybe it's just the whole idea of a senior in college proposing to a senior in high school - and everyone being okay with it. Or, the fact that the characters came off as kind of flat (especially Jared, whose biggest flaw is snoring). Possibly it's because Bronwen herself is so naive and whiny that I had trouble liking her. I'm not sure, but whatever it is, it kept me from really enjoying I Now Pronouce You Someone Else.

On the bright side, the story is light, funny and sweet in a lot of ways. I read it quickly, engaged (pun intended) enough to finish it almost in one sitting. Bronwen's definitely likable, but her immaturity gets annoying (even though I realize she has to be that way in order for the story to work). I also like that Jared's a nice guy, a positive example of a kind, considerate boyfriend (even if it's a little creepy for him to be dating someone so young).

Despite all this, I feel like something essential is missing from the story. I can't put my finger on it, but I know it when I don't see it, if that makes any sense. I liked I Now Pronounce You Someone Else enough to finish it, I just didn't fall in love with it. Amazon reviewers, incidentally disagreed with me, so maybe I've got it wrong. What do you think?

(Readalikes: Hm, I can't really think of any. Can you?)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (there may have been more than one F-bomb, in which case the rating would be R, but I can't remember ...) and sexual content (not graphic, more like making out and innuendo)

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of I Now Pronounce You Someone Else from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. No one has a problem with 100+ year-old Edward proposing to High School Senior Bella! :)

    Still, in today's society, that is sort of wierd. How would they even meet? She was at least 18, right?

    Sounds interesting, even if flawed. :)

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