When Kamryn Matika wakes up on her thirty-second birthday, her only plans for the day are to dress up in a spangly gold dress and high heels. One birthday present she does not expect is the responsibility for 5-year-old Tegan, the daughter of her former best friend Adele - and Kamryn's ex-fiance Nate. But Adele is dying of leukemia, and begs Kamryn to adopt her daughter. Kamryn had never intended to have children and struggles to forgive Adele and Nate for their betrayal of her, but she can't abandon Tegan to live with Adele's cruel father and stepmother.
I've always had the idea that Dorothy Koomson was a chick-lit author, which is a genre I rarely indulge in, and tend to be disappointed with when I do. Judging by the covers in pastel pinks and yellows, her books are certainly marketed as such, but reading My Best Friend's Girl got me thinking about what Chick Lit really is. Light, popular fiction by and for women? Sweet, shallow, fluffy romance? Sex and shopping in London, New York or LA, or perhaps a holiday in Paris or Venice?
My Best Friend's Girl is certainly a women's book, with its emphasis on relationships between friends, family and romantic partners, but I think to class it as "chick-lit" is too simple. "Chick-lit" always has negative connotations to me, though at the same time I acknowlege this to be unfair. Books certainly shouldn't be considered inferior because they are about women's issues, while books about men's issues are just called "general fiction." Unfortunately, I've found many books in the "Chick-lit" genre to be somewhat shallow and unoriginal, though that ought to be put down to the individual writers and not a judgement on the entire genre. My Best Friend's Girl uses many of the conventions of "chick-lit," such as a pastel-coloured cover, a love triangle and an overuse of adjectives, especially describing clothes and hairstyles, but Koomson creates sympathetic, well-rounded characters and explores issues of trust, forgiveness, friendship and parenthood with tact and sensitivity. Adele is a bubbly, outgoing rich girl, genuinely kind and friendly, but whose seemingly perfect childhood was in fact one of neglect and abuse. Kamryn, on the other hand, appears to be a tough, independent woman, but is full of insecurites. After years of bullying, she refused to let people come close to her - and those who she did let in betrayed her, undoing all the hard work. Though Adele's story was more obviously tragic, I really felt for Kamryn, as I could identify first-hand with the damage caused by the more commonplace betrayal.
Read as part of the Support Your Local
I did, however, enjoy the first half of the book better than the second, wherein we were introduced to Kamryn's new boss, Luke. Kamryn denies that she hates him because she secretly wants to sleep with him - but from that moment on I had a good idea where the story was going. Koomson left enough twists and questions to not make the ending predictable, but the addition of romance didn't interest me as much as the story of Kamryn, Adele and Tegan.