The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Trade, 288 pages, 2008

Rating: 9/10

Reason for Reading: I love my chick-lit.

Synopsis: Ava and her little sister Lauren have always felt their places within the family, even if it wasn’t spelled out for them: Ava, now a lawyer, is the smart one; Lauren, now a (just-fired) buyer/stylist for a boutique, is the pretty one. When Lauren moves back to L.A. to help their mother deal with cancer (okay, and maybe to live rent-free while she deals with massive debt), she finds an old contract her parents drew up when they were kids, jokingly betrothing Ava to the neighbours’ son, Russell. Lauren decides that if Ava loves paperwork so much, this might be a contract worth pursuing (okay, and some sisterly revenge might be included in her motives), and decides to get ahold of Russell to match him up with her clueless-about-men big sister…

Why you should read this book: There is a little something for every chick-lit lover in this book: two sister with differing personalities, a mysterious man and a good-guy edged out with a little badness to him, a bit of a tear-jerker with the mom dealing with an early stage of cancer, and lots of descriptions of items of clothing. The dialogue is witty and despite all of the differences between characters, most of them are people you’d want to know in real life. Fun and cute, The Smart One and the Pretty One will leave you rooting for both sisters to realize that they’re more than just the labels they’ve given themselves.

Why you should avoid this book: I would say some things are a bit clich&#233, like sisters that are extreme opposites (not only does Ava lack Lauren’s sense of style, she almost willfully dresses in matronly and unflattering clothes), but…haven’t we all seen this enough to know there is some truth in clich&#233s? Regardless, it’s forgiven because of the fun LaZebnik brings to the story through the sisters.

Opening paragraph:

One evening, when Ava Nickerson was eight years old, her parents betrothed her to Russell Markowitz, the son of their friends Lana and Jeffrey Markowitz. The adults seemed to find the idea of an arranged marriage between their kids very funny, but the whole thing embarrassed Ava, especially when Mr. Markowitz called her his ‘daughter-in-law’ and tried to get his teenage son to embrace his future bride. ‘Come on, Russell,’ said Mr. Markowitz, who had a genial smile and small, shrewd eyes. ‘Do an old man a favor and give us some proof for once that you’re batting for the right team.’

Fabulous quotes:

‘Happiest day of my life,’ added Russell.
‘I thought that was supposed to be the wedding day,’ Lauren said.
‘Clearly you’ve never been divorced.’
‘Just so long as you’re not completely done with marriage yet,’ Lauren said, with a nod toward the piece of paper he still held.

Lauren casually sipped at her wineglass as she swiveled just enough to see the guy Ava meant by looking out of the corner of her eyes. ‘Oh, yeah,’ she said. ‘Totally hot. What’s his story?’
‘He’s new,’ Ava said. ‘I don’t know much about him.’
‘Have you spoken to him?’
‘Yeah, I asked him to press the fourth-floor button on the elevator once. It was a real moment.’
‘Let’s go,’ Lauren said, moving in his direction.
‘Wait.’ Ava grabbed her by the arm. ‘You can’t just go walking up to him for no reason.’
‘Sure I can.’ Lauren shook her off and kept moving.

Also recommended: Names My Sisters Call Me by Megan Crane; Miss Understanding by Stephanie Lessing; The Blonde Theory by Kristin Harmel.

Also by this author: Knitting Under the Influence; Overcoming Autism; Same As
It Never Was

Author’s website:

Fun tidbit: LaZebnik’s husband writes for The Simpsons.

Would I read more by this author? As knitting is my other obsession, it seems rather likely I’ll be snagging a copy of Knitting Under the Influence.

&#169 Lisa Yanaky 2003-2008

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