\ Getting Over Jack Wagner -- book review

Getting Over Jack Wagner
Elise Juska
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Getting Over Jack Wagner

Elise Juska
Downtown Press
304 pages
April 2003
rated 2 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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For a book to be qualified as a good read, it needs at least one of two things — a great main character or a great story that is being told. The really excellent books have both. The books that are difficult to read and easily forgotten have neither. Unfortunately, Getting Over Jack Wagner is one of those books that has neither and, unsurprisingly, makes for a mediocre and uninspiring read.

Eliza is a single woman in her late twenties who spends her life working at a job she dislikes, spending time with her two friends who are settling down into coupledom, and finding new "rock stars" to date and dump. Her rock stars need not be famous to be pursued — as long as they play an instrument and are sufficiently brooding, they qualify. However, when Eliza inevitably finds out that her rocker boyfriends have all the faults of regular human beings, she is disappointed. When she finds out that her sister and husband are having a baby, Eliza falls into a confused depression and wonders where her life could possibly be going.

Told through both a series of flashbacks to Eliza’s childhood days, when her obsession with soap star-turned-singer Jack Wagner started her whole rocker obsession, and through her modern day life, Getting Over Jack Wagner fails on a number of levels. The character of Eliza comes off as whiny and self-defeating, and the explanations from childhood do little to alleviate that image. In addition, the storyline is certainly nothing new and, even worse, goes nowhere. Although Eliza seems to begin facing the fact that dating rock stars is not the way to achieve happiness, we never see any real change of heart or different direction in her life. The explanation for her rock-star obsession is not fleshed out nearly enough to hold readers' interest or help them relate any more to Eliza.

What starts out as an almost promising premise (single woman flashes back to her childhood in the 80s to explain her current woes) slides quickly into a mess of not very amusing situations, unresolved issues and poor characterization. Readers who are tempted to make it to the end to finally see something happen will be doubly disappointed when they read the last page and find that Eliza ends up exactly where she began — confused, self-involved and not very good at telling her own story.

© 2003 by Angela McQuay for Curled Up With a Good Book.

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