Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: 52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody

PUBLISHER: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
SOURCE/FORMAT: Library book! 
KEYWORDS: celebrity, heiress, shit jobs, family
Lexington Larrabee is about to be a multi-millionaire, and she hasn't had to do an hour of work for it. Unless partying in major cities around the globe and being hounded by the paparazzi is work. She is the daughter of the Richard Larrabee, after all, and heiress to the Larrabee Media empire. She's been surrounded by money her whole life, but she is just days away from receiving her $25 million dollar trust fund check on her eighteenth birthday. She has big plans for this check. A summer cruise in Europe, and then getting the hell out of her lavish yet empty feeling home, and away from the critical eye of her rarely present father. Then, after a drunken night out, she crashes her $500,000 Mercedes into the front of a convenience store, and her father decides that enough is enough: if she wants her trust fund check, she has to work 52 low wage jobs, one per week, for a year. Before she knows it, her summer plans turn from partying in Europe, to learning how to assemble burritos and use a vacuum. If she didn't hate her father already, this is surely the final nail in the coffin. Or so she thinks.
Guilty pleasure confession time: I love the shit out of stuff like this. I keep up with the Kardashians. I'm sadly addicted to the Kim Kardashian Hollywood app. I read the entire GOSSIP GIRL series in high school. I watch Rich Kids of Beverly Hills. Etc. Etc. For some reason, I've always been drawn to the lifestyles of the rich and the famous, and when I read the premise of this book, I knew it was something I would probably eat up. It reminded me of that ol' classic show, The Simple Life, and after a particularly dark read, I needed some fluff in my life. 
Lexington Larrabee is one sassy bitch, and I loved that. It's apparent that she has been raised in a rich household, in bratty and sad ways. When she first learns of her father's plans to withhold her trust fund check, she tries to skip town to her birthday bash in Vegas. Much to her dismay, her butler won't drive her to the airport. When she drives herself there, the pilot won't fly her, and her quick thinking is really put into overdrive. It was hilarious to read her inner tantrums over being met with resistance, and the way she comes to conclusions on how to do things. It is also painfully obvious that her father is not around much. Her mother died when she was young, and every 'warm' family moment with her father and his string of short-lived marriages is done for the benefit of a magazine photographer. Her strained relationship with him made me think this book should have been called 52 (MORE) REASONS TO HATE MY FATHER, just because he didn't seem to have any redeeming qualities, even before she had to start working. 
Bruce looks like he's stifling a chuckle, which manages to piss me off even more..."These jobs are...well, slightly less glamorous. Minimum-wage-type stuff. Intended to teach you something about life. To show you how the other half lives."
"What other half?" I snarl.
"The half that doesn't receive a five-hundred-thousand-dollar Mercedes convertible and then crash it into a convenience store the very next day."
...Bruce hands me a piece of paper. "Here's a complete listing of the jobs you'll be undertaking over the next year. You're schedule to start tomorrow."
I gruffly snatch the paper from his hand and glance over the list. It seems to go on forever. My eyes graze over words like janitor, waitress, dishwasher, fast-food restaurant employee, and gas station attendant, and I can't bear to read any further. I chuck the paper back in his direction. "No frickin' way I'm doing any of those things!"
Lexington is accompanied to each job by Luke, an intern for her father's company who ensures that she get to each job on time. Their relationship is strained, to say the least. Luke looks up to Lexington's father, and Lexington can't ever figure out why, especially because he's not much of a father. Also, Luke is the one who has to take her to the dreaded jobs which is bad enough as it is. It was funny watching Lexington try to keep up with her new jobs, and the overdramatic way that she handles her "bruised and battered" body from doing manual labor. Some jobs she genuinely loves, some jobs she loathes, and some jobs it's only her co-workers that make it something worthwhile. Each week she is also required to send in a progress report with what she learned from each job. Sometimes she takes this seriously, other time she just learns that cleaning toilets sucks. These progress reports were also a good way for us to read about her 52 jobs, without having to read about her going to all of them. I especially loved the reasoning for each job, which we learn at the end. It was actually a powerful message, and it really got through to Lexington. 
So this is what real families do.
They talk. Make each other laugh. Dole out warm smiles and tender looks as freely as the sun doles out light.
They sit together in one place. At one table. Sharing one meal. Without a photographer there to document it for the next issue of Time magazine.
And then, like an arctic wind, the reality of the situation hits me with an empty sting.
They're not the strange and unfamiliar ones. I am. I'm the one who doesn't fit in. I'm the one who no one can quite figure out. 
Being the reality-TV-pop-culture junkie that I am, I also enjoyed seeing 'behind the scenes' of a family like this. The glamorous parties. All of 'the help.' The strong presence of media manipulation and a hounding publicist who is obsessed with image. I really liked getting that perspective into this world. I also appreciated how much Lexington, and even her father, grows out of this experience. At first it seems like she won't make it the full 52 weeks, but there are small things that she takes away from each job that ultimately molds her. Honestly, out of the end I would have really loved an Undercover Boss type moment where she reaches out to people she worked with and 'blesses' them in some way, but I thought the end was still pretty darn touching. 

52 REASONS TO HATE MY FATHER was the fluff I was wanting out of this read, but it ended up being much more than I expected! There's main character growth, a sassy narrator, and an inside look into the life of an heiress trying to earn a living like everyone else. I did wish that there was something about her father closer to the beginning that could help us like him a little before he dumps this on her, but he ends up growing by the end of this book, too. 

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