It would be irresponsible to suggest that anyone spend hours reading under the sun, at least without SPF 30. But if you must hit the sand, breezy chick lit is a perfect way to pass a lazy day (ideally under an umbrella). Here's one critic's take on some of the biggest titles of the summer:
"Made in the U.S.A." by Billie Letts; Grand Central ($24.99). Out June 19.
Lutie and Fate McFee know nothing good will happen to them when their daddy's old girlfriend Floy —- the grownup who takes care of them —- drops dead in the checkout line at Wal-Mart in Spearfish, S.D. Troubled Lutie, 15, and her sweet, smart 11-year-old brother head out of town in Floy's old Pontiac for a journey that will take them to Las Vegas —- and heartbreak, trouble and hope.
Letts ("Where the Heart Is") puts the siblings in unbearable situations —- a teenage girl on her own in Vegas doesn't stand a chance —- but sends a guardian angel with a rocky past of his own to deliver them from evil. Prepare to be charmed by Letts' easy prose.
"Chasing Harry Winston" by Lauren Weisberger; Simon & Schuster ($25.95)
Take three beautiful women, make them friends and give them a year to make drastic life changes. It's a familiar set-up that still has potential. But in Weisberger's incapable hands, the characters remain complete bores.
Weisberger's third novel is a tale of New York women circling 30 and dealing with pre-mid-life crises: Adriana, a rich Brazilian who beds anyone she pleases; Emmy, dumped by her boyfriend for a younger woman; and Leigh, a book editor who isn't in love with her fiance but is intrigued by her new bigshot author. Adriana sets out to be engaged within a year, and Emmy pledges to end her pattern of serial monogamy, but the story never picks up.
Weisberger's debut novel, "The Devil Wears Prada," was entertaining, but the best thing about it was the film version.
The characters in "Chasing Harry Winston" like to hint that their own travails are "like something out of a movie." Not a bad idea. A well-written movie might improve this mess of a novel.
"Dirty Girls on Top" by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez; St. Martin's ($24.95). Out July 8.
"Las sucias" —- the titular dirty girls —- have a lot going on in their lives, with abusive husbands, faltering rock star careers, eating disorders, struggling marriages and fertility woes. But this fast-paced novel isn't a bummer at all. Valdes-Rodriguez keeps the story bubbly and light (and occasionally smutty) as she revisits the six Latina college friends she introduced five years ago in "The Dirty Girls Social Club."
"Schooled" by Anisha Lakhani; Hyperion ($23.95). Out Aug. 5.
We just "knew" those spoiled brats from "The Nanny Diaries" would need to be coddled through homework and term papers. Lakhani, a onetime New York City private school teacher and tutor, picks up where the "Nanny" authors left off with "Schooled," a fast-moving, gossipy take on teaching, tutoring and cheating in the city's private schools.
Columbia-educated teacher Anna Taggert, 22, starts her career broke and idealistic. Lured into the lucrative world of tutoring, she discovers that one earns respect by wearing Juicy Couture, attending bar, bat and faux mitzvahs and assigning homework that students' tutors can do for them.
Lakhani gets high marks for keeping Anna sympathetic even in the throes of greed; she's a fine writer who keeps the story moving with absurd situations, telling details on prepster bling and real emotion. Sometimes the novel suffers from the pious whine that afflicts too many New York tell-alls, but in the current crop of city-girl chick lit, "Schooled" easily finds its way to the head of the class.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.