Friday, December 30, 2011

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Title: The Devil Wears Prada
Author: Lauren Weisberger
Publisher: Broadway Books
Pages: 360
Rating: 2/5 Stars

Although I've never seen the movie, the hype surrounding it has made it impossible for me not to have heard about The Devil Wears Prada. A friend gave me the book years ago (years after the movie came out) and since chick lit is not my genre of choice it took me another few years to finally read it.

I think I could have kept waiting.

I have to give Lauren Weisberger credit because even though I found the main character completely annoying by the end, I still wanted to see what happened. As a story, The Devil Wears Prada was pretty refreshing for the genre. Andrea isn't a complete and total trainwreck, searching for Mr. Right in order for her life to be complete. She already has Mr. Right - or at least thinks she does - in her college boyfriend Alex. Andrea's parents aren't completely out of touch idiots. Andrea is not perfect - she smokes, drinks to excess at times, swears, succumbs to the glamorous perks of her job, lies when she has to, is a bitch when it serves her and in general is remarkably with it for the heroine of a chick lit novel.

Bridget Jones she's not. Thank god.

In the beginning of the novel, I liked Andrea. I actually liked all the characters, even the ones who were supposed to be horrible. I sympathized with Andrea and even congratulated her for understanding that at the beginning of ones career, sacrifices have to be made, butts have to be kissed and someone has to do the grunt work. She wasn't afraid to pay her dues. She also wasn't stupid and took advantage of a position at Runway - even though fashion is not her thing - in the hopes that it would let reduce her dues paying time down to one year instead of five. Okay, so far I congratulate her for her ingenuity as well as her determination and realistic outlook.

The problem, I discovered about halfway through the book, was not the plot, it's the characters. I soon grew to hate them. The first to go were Andrea's best friend Lily and her boyfriend Alex. For two people who supposedly knew Andrea better than anybody, they turned on her really freaking quick. Yes, Miranda Priestly was a ridiculous boss. Yes, Andrea's job was basically 24/7 slavery that meant she often had to cancel plans at the last minute and in general be unavailable to her friends a lot of the time.

You know what, though?

Alex and Lily knew this going into it. Nobody lied to Andrea about the demands of the job she was accepting and she certainly didn't hold back when talking about it to her friends. Plus, all involved knew it was only for a year. This wasn't a career for Andrea, it was a job, a stepping stone to help her get her career started. Thus, I ran out of patience for Alex and Lily's whining about Andrea's lack of availability pretty quickly. I didn't think it fair to support Andrea's decision in theory and then turn on her when the actuality of it wasn't acceptable to them. I don't think Alex or Lily should have put their lives on hold while they waited for Andrea's year of servitude to end, but I also think they had obiligations to her as a friend as well that they seemed to forget when they felt she'd slighted them. I intensely disliked Lily's neediness and Alex's guilt-tripping preachiness.

Plus, fyi, Ms. Weisberger, Andrea is not responsible for how Lily chooses to deal with her issues. Insinuating that Andrea's job demands were in some way to blame for Lily's choices is unfair and untrue. Lily needed to grow up and it wasn't Andrea's job to make it happen.

By the end of the book, however, most of my goodwill toward Andrea had disappeared in light of her attitude toward the fashion industry, her co-workers and her boss, as well as her overall sense of entitlement. In the beginning I understood that getting used to Miranda would have been a challenge - especially for Andrea, being a relative outsider to the fashion industry. I can see how the importance these people placed upon Fashion - yes, that's Fashion with a capitol F - would have seemed ridiculous and strange to her. Eleven months in, however, her disdain read as arrogance and I was done with her.

Andrea's unwavering antipathy for the Fashion industry was grating. I understand that she wasn't into it and found it all ridiculous, but the way she let it be known that she considered herself above such pettiness was so rude and disrespectful I lost all patience with her. Fashion may be irrelevant to you, Andrea, but it is not to the people at Runway who want to be there. Judging them for what you deem shallow and materialistic concerns is just as bad as them judging you for not wearing the right shoes with the right dress.

Now, I'm not going to lie, I wouldn't want to work for Miranda. The demands she placed upon...basically everyone were ridiculous. But that's what bosses do, especially the ones who are so far from where they started that they've lost all touch with the reality of being the lowest person on the totem pole. Andrea's incredulity toward Miranda made sense in the beginning, but by the time she had her meltdown in Paris it was just pathetic. Yes, Andrea, your boss's demands are outlandish, humiliating and inconsiderate, but it's not your job to tell her that, it's your job to accomdate them. You're getting paid. You're not doing Miranda a favor by showing up for work everyday, you're receiving money for a service you agreed to perform. Get over your entitled self.

Now, I realize that Andrea is young and as a result might not immediately understand that life is a lot different than college. I could forgive her for the entitled attitude if I felt that by the end she learned from her experience, but she hadn't. All she had was a sense of relief that she was free from Miranda's dictatorship.

This review is quickly becoming a rant, so I'll bring it to a close by saying that I think Lauren Weisberger is a talented storyteller. Given the fact that the only two characters I liked by the end were Miranda and Emily - the supposedly evil ones - I think she needs to work on her characters.

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