She's Got Issues
by Stephanie Lessing
(Avon Trade, $12.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-075696-9
****
Some girls had Barbies, some had Cabbage Patch Dolls; Chloe Rose had shoes. So what does a child who's obsessed with footwear aspire to be? "Shoe Editor" of Issues magazine, of course. Only what happens when she grows up, realizes "shoe editor" doesn't exist and finds out that the woman you work for is often working against you? Stephanie Lessing explores this concept in She's Got Issues.

As Chloe does her best to get her nasty, paranoid boss the promotion she desperately seeks, she can't help but start to outshine her. It isn't Chloe's fault that her passion for make-believe makes her a great copywriter; or that the cute guy "Stan" who rescued her from the shoe department has the editor's ear. And it certainly isn't her fault that "Stan" is suddenly brushing off the editorial cuties just to spend time with her. Or is it?

Is she actually so scheming, so deceptive and so good at lying that she's sure to sleep her way to the top? Nope, she's just na´ve and very, very lucky to have a big sister like Zoe watching her back.

Chloe is the most fascinating character I've stumbled upon in ages. She's so vapid, yet occasionally says things that are amazingly brilliant. The woman cannot remember that she works in promotions, not "promotiations" yet is intelligent enough to devise brilliant ad campaigns.

She's also amazingly giving. Unlike most chick-lit heroines these days, Chloe has empathy and spends most of the novel trying to help others, while helping herself. She tries to redeem her evil boss Ruth, who only hired her because she seemed incompetent when she showed up at her interview in a stained skirt (really, nasty stain, I won't spoil it here). She forms an ad campaign around the shy girl from the art department who just happens to be breathtakingly beautiful. Chloe's the kind of girl who befriends the janitor, not because he can help her, but because she doesn't realize the other girls think she shouldn't. Chloe doesn't understand the concept of class barriers or workplace snobbery.

She's Got Issues is a brilliant novel satirizing our culture, our fashion and my generation. Every single character has some malfunction in this story. Chloe's a fashionista; Zoe's a strident pot-smoking feminist; and Jen is the type of girl who simply enjoys being a stereotypical pink loving girl.

Lessing creates amazing characters. One of the most interesting is Zoe. At four-feet and nine-inches, she has a Napoleon complex, in which she spends ninety percent of her time writing angry letters to anyone who mistreats Chloe. This stems from a childhood incident that Lessing details in a flashback, in which Zoe realizes "(she's) much too little to be (Chloe's) big sister." Beyond laying the groundwork for Zoe's character, this scene is a revealing insight into how the female mind works: most of us are not physically intimidating, so we fight back with words and intellect. Zoe isn't just gutsy and determined; she's also intelligent. Therefore, she is a threat, albeit a well-disguised one.

My only real complaint is that the male lead isn't well developed. In fact, I spent most of the book trying to figure out if there was going to be a serious romance at all. Which isn't necessarily bad, unless you end up with a hero you know nothing about. I guess that's okay, since this is Chloe's story, but really, I would have liked to have seen their dynamic as a "real" couple a bit more.

Despite the hero coming in from left field, She's Got Issues is a very entertaining story. It thoroughly explores the idea of how women all too often sabotage each other, but does so with wit and style - like all good chick-lit should.

--Amanda Waters


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