I read The Regulars by Georgia Clark on my flight to Venice because I saw it on another blogger’s reading list. I dove in without knowing what the book was about, but due to its popularity, I did have the expectation that it would be a fresh story.
The Regulars turns out to be chicklit with a heavy dash of feminism. I normally enjoy the occasional modern chicklit novel in the same way one enjoys turning off their brain and watching The Real Housewives once in a while. With that said, while I see this book has good intentions, it was still way too bubble-gum for my taste.
I was happy to see a female-female relationship in the novel, which is something I don’t often find unless I’m reading a book specifically about gay characters. Unfortunately, that’s where the originality ends. The cast consists of three leads – an alternative, sarcastic blogger who wants to change the world; a ditzy, wannabe actress; and a waif-like, rich-yet-struggling artist. The author used these characters to present her novel’s message, “love yourself no matter what you look like,” but she never succeeded in convincing me to actually care about them. While I appreciate the author’s attempt to create somewhat unreliable narrators to make her cast more genuine, I can’t relate to characters who end up being caricatures of real women.
The “regular” women are transformed into beautiful people by a magic potion called, “Pretty.” To put it simply, all three women get exactly what they want when they’re beautiful, learn that beauty isn’t everything, and then… get exactly what they want as their normal selves. Where are the stakes? The author gets close to tackling real issues many times, such as sexual abuse, beauty double standards for men and conventionally attractive women, and eating disorders – but she didn’t follow through.
For example, we are introduced to a male character whose suffers embarrassment from a physical flaw that many males feel they must measure up to. One of our supposedly feminist protagonists rejects him because of this flaw, which could actually be a really great story line about double standards – but we shut the door on him without seeing how he deals with the issue. We also never get acknowledgement – through the protagonist or through the writing – that what she did was wrong. Why are we introduced to important topics if there aren’t any realized implications? I don’t think there’s hidden meaning; I think the author made everything too easy for the characters. She touched upon some real issues, but threw them away. The story wasn’t grounded in enough reality to make the message hit home for me.
In the end, I don’t know who the target audience is for this book. The content implies it’s for women in their 20’s to 30’s: sexual discovery and freedom, young women in the workforce, and adulthood identity crisis. However, the overly simple and exaggerated presentation of these characters and the complete lack of grit reminds me of juvenile fiction. I appreciate the message the author is trying to say with The Regulars, but it’s well-worn topic – there are plenty of Young Adult novels about how “beauty isn’t everything.” I don’t care about her characters, so I don’t care about the story.