Monday, October 12, 2009

The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik

When Ava Nickerson was a child, her mother jokingly betrothed her to a friend's son, and the contract the parents made has stayed safely buried for years. Now that still-single Ava is closing in on thirty, no one even remembers she was once "engaged" to the Markowitz boy. But when their mother is diagnosed with cancer, Ava's prodigal little sister Lauren comes home to Los Angeles where she stumbles across the decades-old document.
Frustrated and embarrassed by Ava's constant lectures about financial responsibility (all because she's in a little debt. Okay, a lot of debt), Lauren decides to do some sisterly interfering of her own and tracks down her sister's childhood fiancé. When she finds him, the highly inappropriate, twice-divorced, but incredibly charming Russell Markowitz is all too happy to re-enter the Nickerson sisters' lives, and always-accountable Ava is forced to consider just how binding a contract really is . . .

It's always crazy how two people can grow up in the same house with the same parents at the same time and turn out to be two completely different personalities. That is exactly what happened with Ava and Lauren Nickerson. Lauren loves fashion. She works in the industry and is in complete debt because she can't stop buying everything she sees. She is fun-loving and flirty and a bit flighty. Ava could care less about her clothes, her hair or makeup. She likes to be functional and comfortable. She has grown up and become a lawyer, and she takes a serious approach to life.

When Lauren decides to get Ava back for making her feel like a punished child by signing a "no spending" contract she knows how to make it count. Can she help it if that "contract" stating that Ava must marry Russell Markowitz came fluttering out of the cabinet? A contract is a contract says Ava so Lauren will make sure she doesn't let this one get broken.

The personalities of all the characters in this book jump off the page. Ms. LaZebnik does a wonderful job creating the sister relationship and personalities. She also does a great job of delving a bit into their psyche to get to the root of why they behave as they do. It was a bit enlightening to see Ava act foolish over receiving a gift of clothing and then have her thoughts of insecurity show me why the clothes hurt her feelings. As is common in the real world the sisters differences highlight the others insecurities. For example, Ava and Lauren look alike, but when Ava felt she couldn't compete with Lauren and win she became the opposite as far as how she presents herself. Lauren had never felt she could be as responsible as Ava so she quit trying.

Another character in the book that I enjoyed was Russell Markowitz. Having grown up with an embarrassment of a mother he lost all respect for women. No wonder he is twice divorced and dates gorgeous women who have little personality. He doesn't see that a woman could truly compliment his life. When he meets Ava and Lauren he knows exactly which one enamors him, but it isn't his usual choice.

Lauren's love interest for a moment is Daniel. He is distant and rude, but his mother is sick and he's a New Yorker so she decided to let it go. She meets him while they wait for their mothers to finish chemo and the bond and attraction is there immediately. She ignores his rudeness and focuses only on the attraction. I won't spoil what happens by telling you, but Lauren learns a great deal about herself by taking part in this relationship.

There is a serious side to this chick lit novel and that is cancer. Ms. LaZebnik does an honorable job while writing about this subject. The dialogue and the effect on relationships is very realistic. Cancer is treatable and terminal and both types were in this book. It reflected the awkwardness and the anger and denial beautifully. I appreciated the respect mingled with the realism.

Though the ending was predictable this was a fun read and I enjoyed watching both girls "grow up" and make self-discoveries. Many of them were things that each of us have dealt with at one time or another or as we grow as women we may eventually face. The biggest lesson of all - and one you need to learn right away if you don't know it yet - being that the truly "pretty one" is the woman that can look in the mirror and be comfortable with the woman who looks back on the outside and the inside.

Thanks to Miriam at Hachette Book Group for providing me with this book to review.


  1. Now, this is the most in-depth review I've read about this book, and now I have to have it!

    From the title, it sounds kind of superficial, but from your review, it is obviously not.

    Thanks, Ali!

  2. I agree with the commenter above me! This is the most in-depth review I've read. It makes me want to read it, even more than I already did :)

  3. I guess I just *thought* I'd responded to this...take 2

    I have won this book from another book blog and am excited to read it. After reading this review, I'm estatic to read it!

    Great review!!!

  4. Thanks all for the nice words about my review. It is nice when people read the review without a giveaway being attached.