Picks and Pans Review: Use Me
In an age when too many characters in novels sound like opera divas warming up (me me me), here is another coming-of-age novel singing that self-absorbed tune. Middle-class suburbanite Evie is in the early blush of young womanhood and on vacation in France when we first meet her. After she witnesses a local boy perform a galling sexual act, the stage is set for chapters that update her life every three or four years and chart her tortured interest in the opposite sex. As a coed, she flirts for unknown reasons with a smarmy, macho yet revered writer who is pure stereotype, and does the same as a young mom with a gangly teenager at a Cinnabon stand in a mall food court. Woven throughout is the battle Evie's father wages against cancer, which, seemingly drawn from the author's own experience, gives Use Me a much-needed sense of authority.
But if Schappell used a death in her actual family as fodder for Evie's exercise in self-pity—shame, shame. As someone once observed, you can get more sympathy from an audience with a tear held back than with one spilled, and unfortunately this book is often all wet. (Morrow, $23)
Bottom Line: Uneven exercise in narcissism