When I was first introduced to the smart, hilariously sassy Cannie Shapiro in Jennifer Weiner's Good in Bed, I felt like I'd made a friend. She's clever, outspoken, fun and talented, though she also, like many of us, struggles with her weight and her feelings of self-worth. Thus, I was delighted to find out that we get a continuation of Cannie's story in Certain Girls — and this time there's another voice talking: Cannie's now-13-year-old daughter, Joy.
Joy, whose premature birth left her with hearing problems, has always known that her mother wrote a salacious, bestselling novel many years ago but never had much interest in reading it — until now. And what she reads horrifies her. She starts to question her mother's honesty, and goes in search of the truth about her family's history. Meanwhile, Cannie's husband Peter wants to find a surrogate so he and Cannie can have their own baby together. Not loving the idea, Cannie explores their options while also trying to plan a bat mitzvah for her surly teenage girl.
In a rare occurrence of the sequel surpassing the original, I enjoyed Certain Girls more than I liked Good in Bed. To find out why,
While I like the character of Cannie and the collection of hilarious characters that surround her in Good in Bed, that book is a whole lotta Cannie. It's also fanciful in ways that I couldn't quite swallow at times. But Certain Girls benefits from Joy's voice and her teenage perspective. At times it struck a chord so familiar I had to put down the book, recognizing as I did the painful experiences of puberty. It's also surprisingly fun to get a new, inside look at Cannie through her daughter's eyes. Certain Girls is also darker, in many ways, and though there's still a good amount of fantasy-world fun, there's also a hefty dose of real-world drama. Perhaps because of this, I became powerfully attached to this mother-daughter duo and had to do that thing where I lingered over the final few pages to try and make it last.
Bottom line: Certain Girls isn't literary perfection, but it is a funny, absorbing and emotional read.