Lexi James & the Council of Girlfriends
by Melissa Jacobs
(Avon Trade, $12.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-074398-0
*****
You know those chick-lit books in which the main character does nothing but whine about being single? Well, this isn't exactly one of them. No, Lexi James's biggest fear isn't growing old without a man; it's growing old without her girlfriends. In this refreshing approach to angst ridden thirty-somethings, Melissa Jacobs explores the relationships between men, women and what happens when they overlap.

Lexi seems to have it all. Sure, she's just ended her engagement, but she did it on her own terms. She has a great job (Executive Vice President of a PR firm), awesome friends (the Council) and makes more money than she can ever imagine. Now if only things would stay that way, she could be happy forever.

But everything changes, as it always does. The Council members seem to be growing up, they're even making decisions without the usual group consult. "Princess" Grace has finally gotten engaged, as has the Fabulous Ellie Archer. Mamma Mia is becoming more and more entrenched in children and suburb life, while La Diva Lola suddenly starts keeping secrets. Lexi's life is the only one stuck in neutral. As life idles by, Lexi suddenly realizes she may end up all alone and unfulfilled, after all. It's time to strike out on her own, whether she wants to or not.

Jacobs does an excellent job of using the modern "urban family" as the focal point of the story. While Lexi has already "grown up" and broken away from her traditional family, she has yet to stand on her own. Like a lot of women, Lexi clears her career decisions and boyfriend choices with her friends instead of trusting her own judgment. She even goes so far as to leave Jack, a guy with whom she's on her first date, alone in her living room, while she calls both Grace and Lola to ask if she should sleep with him. While this provides for a very humorous moment, it also offers great insight into Lexi's character. As Jack says, Lexi is "COG dependent."

While this dependency works out well for Lexi in the beginning, there reaches a point in almost every woman's life when her friends begin to pull away. As Lola points out, women become best friends with their husbands; therefore they push their girlfriends aside. This is fine for the married women, but what about that last single girl? How does she cope when her support system goes down? These are all issues Jacobs tackles with candor, humor and a surprising amount of wisdom.

Lexi James and the Council of Girlfriends is an incredibly well written first person narrative. This is a bit disconcerting at first, since in the beginning, Lexi comes off as insufferable. For the first part of the book, she's completely unsympathetic. But as the story unfolds and we see how people react to Lexi, we begin to understand why she is the way she is. She's a results-oriented person, who doesn't struggle with the likeability issue that plagues most women. Lexi doesn't care if people like her, as long she accomplishes her goal. It's quite nice to have such a strong heroine in this age of simpering people-pleasing female leads.

Lexi's journey, and that's truly what this story is, is inspirational, humorous and a bit intimidating. Jacobs stresses the point that sometimes, all we have is ourselves. And while the hardest person to trust may be yourself, you may also be the most important one.

--Amanda Waters


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