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Dedication by Emma McLaughlin

Hannah Sampson
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

While Dedication doesn't carve out new territory in the crowded chick lit universe, it is an appealing tale of giddy love, heartbreak and the ultimate triumph of girl power.


Publisher: Atria
ISBN: 141654013X
Author: Emma McLaughlin
Price: $24.00
Length: 288
Formats: Hardcover
US publication date: 2007-06

Who would not welcome a final confrontation with The One Who Got Away? If only just to flip expensively cut hair, shrug toned, tanned shoulders and curl perfectly glossed lips into a pitying aren't-I-better-than-ever smile at the heart crusher who would immediate realize that ditching you was the worst decision he ever made.

In real life, the encounter inevitably happens when you are wearing your dumpiest sweats buying deodorant at the drug store with greasy hair and spinach in your teeth. Dedication, on the other hand, is a deliciously satisfying fantasy. The third novel from the authors of The Nanny Diaries features their most winning heroine, feisty writing and most coherent plot thus far.

Kate Hollis, 30, is a consultant who has spent the last 13 years planning to make her high school sweetheart regret his existence. The object of Kate's obsession since sixth grade is Jake Sharpe, who broke up with her before the senior prom and then became a rock star while using her as inspiration for his hits. Her chance at a confrontation arrives when Jake returns to the Vermont town where they grew up to film an MTV special with his fiance.

Like the authors' previous protagonists, "Nanny and Girl," Prius-driving Kate is holier than the rest of us, although at least she has a "name" like the rest of us. Happily, that is where the similarities end. Somewhere between the dreadful Citizen Girl and the surprisingly enjoyable Dedication, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus found a singular voice. Or a really good editor.

The novel slowly pieces together the history of Kate and Jake and makes a strong case for Kate's outrage. The late 1980s are painfully reconstructed with references to Kirk Cameron, satin bow clips and frizzy perms. Also painful is the way the book captures the unique heartsickness that accompanies the loss of a first love: "I'll turn on the radio and look for him," Kate says. "And I'll let myself pretend, for just a minute, that he's singing to me. Just to me. And I wonder if I'll "ever" feel like that again."

Jake's motivation is occasionally a puzzle, and his character is never fully drawn. But the rest of the supporting crew -- notably Kate's steadfast best friend and troubled parents -- are crafted finely enough to fill the book with memorable personalities.

While Dedication doesn't carve out new territory in the crowded chick lit universe, it is an appealing tale of giddy love, heartbreak and the ultimate triumph of girl power.

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