Jillian Siegel's life is a mess. Her boyfriend tells her she's not
emotionally available, her cleaning lady is on strike, and she's
just lost her job at the hippest ad agency in New York City. What's
more, she can't talk to anyone about her problems: her mother is
too busy jetsetting around the world to notice that her daughter is
unhappy, and her beloved uncle Bingo is dying. Bingo, Jillian's
former confidant, was the long-time owner of Loevner's, an
exclusive and dynamic department store where Jillian spent much of
her childhood amid fanciful store displays and doting sales clerks
who became her surrogate family.
What's a girl to do when her life is falling apart? For Jillian,
the answer is simple: shoplifting. Before entering an upscale
boutique, where she skillfully engages salesgirls in conversation
while secretly pocketing the merchandise, Jillian repeats her
mantra: It is mine. When a shoplifting experience backfires,
however, Jillian does a brief stint in jail, where she meets
Shelly, a small-time crook and shoplifter-in-training, who soon
connects with Jillian outside of prison as well.
Giddy when their scams succeed, high on the adrenaline rush of
successful shoplifting, Shelly and Jillian soon become unlikely
friends, treating each other to hot milk pedicures and sushi
lunches. Shelly also introduces Jillian to her employer, the head
of a Peruvian shoplifting ring on the verge of making their biggest
hit yet. When the organization learns of Jillian's talents, they
are eager to employ her, especially when she proves just how good
she really is. But when Jillian discovers the target of the group's
next shoplifting spree, she knows she must wise up, grow up, and do
something right for a change.
Jillian's realization that she shoplifts to compensate for her
loneliness and lifelong disappointments will resonate with many
shopaholics, whether they obtain their merchandise legally or not.
Unlike many other novels of this genre, THE BOOSTER does not
concern itself overly much with Jillian's love life, career, or
circle of friends. Instead, it is a thoughtful, at times piercing,
character study of a woman about to enter her 30s without a clear
idea of who she is or where she's going. Although Jillian could
have become a rather unlikable character, her vulnerability and
eventual grasp of maturity --- just in the nick of time --- will
endear her to readers, who may see more of themselves in Jillian
than they would initially like to admit.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on December 22, 2010