It's somehow comforting to know that ethnic chick-lit can be as vapid and annoying as the typical mainstream variety. One good example of this is Alisa Valdes-Rodrieguez's "Make Him Look Good," a hideously inept satire on celebrity and self-absorbed males.
Chubby, fangirlish Milan is president of an online fanclub for Ricky Biscayne, a sexy crossover singer; so when her chic, urbane sister Geneva offers to get her a meeting -- then a job -- with Ricky, she jumps at the chance. Suddenly she's his new publicist, hobnobbing with the rich and famous -- and a convenient sex partner.
But Ricky's life is swarming with women -- his fragile, newly pregnant supermodel wife Jasminka, his disapproving mom, an ex-girlfriend who bore his daughter as a teenager, and man-hungry A-lister Jill Sanchez. When Ricky disgraces and lies to the various women, they band together to revenge themselves on him and the cunning Jill.
I love soapy chick-lit as much as the next person, but "Make Him Look Good" is almost offensive in its thinly-veiled, smug attitude. Instead of satirizing and condemning sleazy stars, celebrity-worship and marital cheating -- as it seems to at first -- it lingers on them like a lustful cameraman.
Valdes-Rodrieguez seems more interested in lingering on Miami chic clubs, A-list housing and clothing than on plot. She also apparently gets tired of certain storylines -- Geneva stealing Milan's past boyfriends is awkwardly dismissed with "oh... I was wrong, sorry." The climax is the height of the hilarity, with a "surprise" expose with the media that is more fantasy than Harry Potter, and written with campy ineptitude.
The characters aren't so great either -- our heroine Milan is a pitiful, spineless girl who lives in a fantasy world, and sleeps with a pregnant woman's husband without remorse. Why should we care about her? The other characters are "types" rather than people: sexy successful sister, arrogant and sexist Latin guy, fragile child-woman from war-torn country, vaguely butch firewoman and feisty teen.
The only really amusing aspect of this book is the affair between Jill and Ricky (also known as Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony), along with the fictional counterparts of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. Jill is so nasty, conniving, cunning and manipulative that she's funny in a campy way, even if it's an easy stab.
"Make Him Look Good" doesn't make anyone in it look good, let alone Alisa Valdes-Rodrieguez. This vapid chick-lit book aspires to be a soapy guilty pleasure, but the only guilt is in reading it to the end.