Lynne's Reviews > Picture Perfect

Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult
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Feb 23, 12

bookshelves: chick-lit
Read in February, 2012

I'd never read Jodi Picoult before and wanted to give her a try. I've heard such adjectives as "manipulative" and "formulaic" said and written about her work, yet other readers and writers whom I trust have raved about her, so I decided to see for myself.
**spoilers ahead**
My verdict on Picture Perfect: Picoult's prose swings wildly between lyrical and purple. The story is somewhat disjointed; an abusive Hollywood husband, his long-suffering, loving, loyal wife who feels she has to take on his pain, as if allowing him to kick her in the ribs will somehow "heal" him, the half-blood Sioux police officer who comes between them, as though she's trying to make this some sort of sweeping epic: "From the glittering mansions and ballrooms of Hollywood to the dreary, wind-swept plains of South Dakota. . ." Neither relationship is all that well developed. Every "developed" character has had a dark/painful/traumatic childhood. Minor characters are flat and stereotypical (the Jewish agent, the loud, overweight publicist with a bad dye job). Picoult plays amateur shrink for the principal players and doesn't do a very good job of it. Her description of Battered Woman Syndrome reads like a Wikipedia article. There are no low notes nor cadences in the story. There's one note, and it's a screeching octave above high "C". Also, I always look sideways at writers who attempt to portray a culture not their own, and despite her best efforts to portray the Sioux characters in the book as real people, they feel more like props. Cassie takes Alex's pain onto herself, then allows Will to take her pain onto himself. Realism is sacrificed to drama, hence my shelving it as "chick-lit" and not as "realism" or "literary."

Granted, this is an earlier novel, so perhaps her later work is more subtle and nuanced. I'm just not sure I want to find out. I looked at three paperbacks (Sing You Home was one of them) in the stacks at Costco, and the blurbs on the back cover all read similarly. "Small New England [or insert some other state] town, rocked by some crisis of conscience or some violent crime or whatever. . ." rinse, repeat.

I try to read widely in order to inform my writing, so I'm glad I picked this up. Learning from what doesn't work is just as effective as learning from what does.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Amester (new)

Amester Don't bother. She's mediocre at best. But, hey, way to learn from the bad and see the upside!


Lynne Amester wrote: "Don't bother. She's mediocre at best. But, hey, way to learn from the bad and see the upside!"
What else of hers have you read?


message 3: by Amester (new)

Amester Lynne wrote: "Amester wrote: "Don't bother. She's mediocre at best. But, hey, way to learn from the bad and see the upside!"
What else of hers have you read?"

The Pact (crazy premise that she couldn't make me buy into), Keeping Faith (actually fairly good, if memory serves), The Tenth Circle (which I don't remember much about except for the comic book drawings), and My Sister's Keeper (the premise was way better than the book). These were all read YEARS ago so I don't remember much, just that I'd rather spend my precious time on about a hundred other authors. She's kind of Grisham - big on story but you never really get inside her characters and she doesn't write with enough skill to overcome that.


Lynne Amester wrote: "Lynne wrote: "Amester wrote: "Don't bother. She's mediocre at best. But, hey, way to learn from the bad and see the upside!"
What else of hers have you read?"
The Pact (crazy premise that she could..."

Thanks for the heads-up. I was thinking maybe her later books would show improvement--more depth, less "look at meeee I'm the author." You're probably spot-on on the Grisham comparison, though I've never read him either; I don't read much "pop" fiction, which is where I would place Picoult despite her efforts to be perceived as deep.


message 5: by Amester (new)

Amester She writes about deep TOPICS, just not very deeply. ;)
I only do current fiction if it's been highly recommended by someone I trust or if it's won something (PEN, Booker, etc.). Snobby? Probably, but it keeps me from wasting my time (mostly!). Speaking of - you need to read 'tinkers' by Paul Harding - shades of Marilynne Robinson, amazing stuff.


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