Book Review: The Smart One

When I received my advance copy of “The Smart One,” I knew it was exactly what I needed. After several months of reading only business, marketing, finance and health & fitness books, I was in the mood for some good chick-lit. And that describes The Smart One, exactly.

When Mary Lewis invited me to participate in her Blog Stop Book Tour by reviewing The Smart One, I looked up the title on Amazon. I was certain I’d seen it before. Turns out, I hadn’t, but it was so reminiscent of many of my other favorite books, it must have struck some subconscious recognition in my brain. This is not a bad thing. I enjoy titles by writers like Sophie Kinsella, Jane Green and Jennifer Weider because they deliver exactly what they promise every time: a light read with characters I could picture as my friends. The heroines in this genre typically have a good sense of humor and a bright yet realistic outlook on life.

This describes Bev, the main character in The Smart One, pretty well. But the plot twists--utterly surprising yet completely logical in retrospect—set this book apart in a genre that features many “copycat” titles by less-than-talented authors and hum-drum, no action plots.

On the contrary, The Smart One is a skillfully woven tale that seamlessly blends the genres of true crime, detective story and romance while exploring deeper issues such as sibling rivalry and competition amongst sisters.

Long Island-based sisters Bev, Claire, and Joey discover a dead body in an oil drum hidden in the crawl space of their childhood next door neighbors’ house. And yes, things like this do happen in the Utopic (dystopic, perhaps?) suburbia of Long Island. In fact, author Ellen Meister says the idea for the story was sparked by a similar local incident, although all facts, personalities and plot twists aside from the “dead body in an oil drum” detail, are completely fiction. (Are you surprised? After all, Long Island is the home of Joey Butofuco and Amy Fisher, and the Amityville Horror.)

As a fellow Long Islander, I enjoyed Meister’s references to local landmarks and traditions such as concerts at Jones Beach and shopping at Fortunoff. But such intimate knowledge of the geography of our strange little sandbar is definitely not necessary to enjoy the book.

The characters, too, are realistic portrayals of suburban women. There is Bev, the “Smart One” of the title, a bit too pudgy for her own liking, smart but unfulfilled. There is big sister Claire, the suburban housewife who seems, on the surface, just a bit too perfect, and was always viewed as “the pretty one.” Finally, there is the baby of the family, Joey, a former rock star and recovering addict, who provides a dose of harsh reality to the sisters’ worlds. She’s viewed as the rock star and the rebel with a voice like an angel.

As one of three sisters myself, I enjoyed the dynamics between these women. Even in their most hateful moments of rivalry and bickering, the love between them is tangible. Like real-life sisters, the women come together when it matters.

I’m bursting with a desire to tell everyone I know about this title, to share the amazing plot twists and dramatic moments. I’ve stopped myself short several times so as not to give away a key detail. Suffice it to say, the book carried me from laugh-out-loud guffaws (politically incorrect as it may be, who can resist a good midget joke delivered tongue-in-cheek?) to tears—only to sigh in relief when my preconceived notions were proven wrong.

If you’re in the mood for a good beach read before the summer winds down or something to help you escape from the realities of back-to-school time, The Smart One is, well, pardon the cheesy word play, but it’s just a smart choice.

To read the other Blog Stop Book Tours reviewers' opinions, go here!

August 1 - Mom Is Just A Nickname

August 4 - Virtual Wordsmith

August 8 - Musings From The Mitten

August 9 - The Book Faery Reviews

August 11 - Maw Books

August 18 - Fighting With Writing

August 20 - Book Room Reviews

August 22 - Presenting Lenore

August 25 - Anything That Pays… A Freelance Writer’s Blog

August 29 - She Is Too Fond Of Books