Picks and Pans Review: The Wonder Spot

UPDATED 06/13/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/13/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT

By Melissa Bank
NOVEL

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In her first work since her 1999 debut, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Melissa Bank delivers another coming-of-age story whose heroine navigates life in New York City with the grace of a giraffe standing for the first time. The litany of Sophie Applebaum's faux pas are impressive: She embarrasses herself at a painting class when she overendows her portrait of the nude male model, she oversleeps the morning after being reprimanded for her tardiness at work, and she manages to dress inappropriately whether she's going to a bat mitzvah or the beach.

Bank's casual writing style and snappy dialogue make Sophie's misadventures in womanhood both funny and emotionally resonant. Whether she's struggling to hang on to a job or grappling with a proposal from a man who's not The One, readers will identify with the challenges she faces and often chuckle at how she handles them.

If it all sounds familiar, though, it's because Bank uses the same young-woman, big-city framework seen in her first novel—a hit that helped define chick lit. Fans will be happy to know that in her latest Bank balances humor and poignance within the genre's format to deliver a satisfying read. But anyone growing weary of the Bridgets and Sophies of the literary world maybe disappointed to learn that this talented author missed an opportunity to steer the genre in a new direction.

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