Picks and Pans Review: Playing with Boys

UPDATED 09/20/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/20/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

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Alexis Lopez is Dallas born-and-fed, a size-14, self-deprecating sorority girl who discovers her inner Latina–emphasis on the L.A.–in the latest chica lit from Valdes-Rodriguez, bestselling author of The Dirty Girls Social Club. Republican, pearl-wearing Alexis trades Texas for Southern California, a place that aggravates her asthma but breathes life into her budding artist-management career. As the daughter of the Mexican Elvis, Alexis has the right mix of genes and connections to culture-crash. ("I thought it was shameful that... the big PR companies were oblivious to the talent and riches in Spanish-speaking America.") No translation is needed for much of this funny, if familiar, turf. Alexis and her clients (a shy screenwriter and a brash Baywatch actress among them) take turns to tell all as their lives intertwine against a celeb and designer-name backdrop. But what begins as gossipy self-absorption gradually acquires sociopolitical accents. Cuban exiles and Salvadoran death squads figure in the mix, as do themes of sexual abuse, infidelity and absentee fathers. It all sounds incongruous, but the unexpected elements add welcome heft. For Alexis and company, the endings are happy but hard-won.

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