If you enjoyed Lauren Weisberger's THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA and Sophie Kinsella's "Shopaholic" series but disliked the profanity and gratuitous sex, then SHE'S ALL THAT is your book. Kristen Billerbeck bills herself as "one of the first Christian Chick Lit authors" and in kicking off her "Spa Girls" series she also proves that she's one of the best.
Lilly Jacobs tries to make a name for herself as a fashion designer in San Francisco (a refreshing change from all the Chick Lit set in New York City). She's just lost a promotion from boss Sarah Lang (yup, rhymes with "Vera Wang") to a man who wears more eyeliner and is less talented. Her sort-of boyfriend Robert has dumped her for another woman, and Lilly is more miffed than heartbroken over the whole thing. When things get tough, Lilly and her two best friends head for the Spa Del Mar, where there's nothing a good pedicure and facial can't cure.
Is this the sort of tale you like? Then read on....
Billerbeck excels at giving her characters little eccentricities that make them appealing and memorable. Lilly, who at twenty-something "has the figure of your standard thirteen-year-old," also has a thing about Lysol and bad smells, going to the point of even smearing a little Vicks Vapo-Rub under her nose whenever she has to take public transportation with the unwashed masses of San Francisco. (No surprise that aromatherapy becomes a part of the novel.) Her two best gal pals are chiropractor Dr. Poppy Clayton, an updated version of a Haight Ashbury beatnik --- complete with gauzy skirts and endless chatter about positive energy fields and toxins --- and Morgan Malliard, a mannequin for her father's diamond jewelry. All three women have issues with their mothers --- or lack of them.
For a Chick Lit novel, the characters --- dare we say it? --- are reasonably complex. Lilly has a degree from Stanford in finance ("I bet you I'm the only MBA from Stanford sleeping on a futon") and a grandmother who wants her to use it. It makes pursuing her fashion design dreams a little dicey. Plus, Lilly has bad taste in men, something her girlfriends try to gently help her understand without a lot of success. Lilly's boss from h-e double hockey sticks seems at first to be one-dimensional, but Billerbeck throws in some surprising twists.
Many Christian Chick Lit novelists struggle with making God-talk a natural part of the novel, and in this, Billerbeck does a good job. The Christian characters are not cookie-cutter women spouting scripture verses, nor are the non-Christians stereotyped as the bad guys. And thank goodness, there's no conversion scenes. Thank you, Kristen.
However, readers may find the numerous references to Lilly's unmanageable hair humorous at first but then increasingly tiresome. Come on, even for a Chick Lit heroine, hair isn't that all-consuming. Neither is Johnny Depp, who, although definitely a hunk, is referenced a bit much. If you're a forty-something like I am who dips into Chick Lit now and then, you'll also be confused by some of the references aimed at younger, hipper female readers (I had to ask my teen who "Green Day" is...for those of you in my age range, it's a punk band.) I also found the whole subplot of Morgan's engagement a bit difficult to swallow.
But these are minor bumps in what is a smooth, fun, light read. There are plenty of loose ends dangling for the next installment, A GIRL'S BEST FRIEND, which presumably will pick up where this book leaves off. Chick Lit fans may find it difficult to wait.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on October 4, 2005