Giovanna and Me: A review of Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

Well, I really wanted this to work out. I wanted to love Giovanna Fletcher’s storytelling and go on to read her other books. I wanted our relationship to blossom and mature. Sadly, it is probably all over for us. Looking back, I should have known we weren’t compatible. There were quite obvious signs. The genre, for one. The ‘chick lit’ label leaves me dismayed – the name is derogatory and it is more than patronising in its implication that there is only one kind of literature that would appeal to women. Yet, the books in this particular group don’t seem to be that *good* – making me think Is that what chick lit means? Not very good? Which makes me quite agitated in all respects.

Billy and Me, whatever it’s labelled, is a mediocre book at best. The subject matter – a ‘plain’, unassuming young woman that meets and falls in love with a famous film star – is cliched and, admittedly, didn’t appeal to me very much at first glance.  The book is far too long for its flat writing style. It lacks description, it lacks meatiness, and it lacks the multi-diamentional characters a book deserves. 

Sophie, the protagonist, is nice enough, but not very unique, nor very interesting, nor very anything, except perhaps annoying in her self deprecation, and even more annoying in her self righteousness. There is one bizzare passage featuring a sex scene that Billy (of the title and Sophie’s famous boyfriend) has to act out with a fellow thespian and ex-girlfriend. It left me questioning Sophie’s – and Giovanna’s – judgement. Such a conservative and prudish attitude seems so outdated now, but more than this, Sophie’s unreasonableness is out of character for her level headedness up to that point. Even more strangely, the narrative doesn’t really question her perspective. Indeed, the whole stance of the book seems stuffy when it comes to sex. The narrative doesn’t refer to Sophie and Billy’s sex life at all, leading me to question Are they really doing it?  This is a silly question because of course they are, but there is no passion in the narration of their relationship, there is no sensuousness in the author’s words, there is no flirtation between the characters, and consequently no flirtation or chemistry with the reader. The tenderness of love is there, yes, but the salaciousness of a physical relationship is not. Is this novel aimed at the young romantic teen? It certainly feels this way in its demure demeanor and uncluttered, unflowery writing style.

Billy and Me disappoints mainly because the picture it paints is not rich or distinct enough. I love a book that makes me disappear into its unique world. I need to be wooed with enchanting and poetic prose. I need to be shown something I have never experienced before, and told something I have never heard before. I need those sweet whispers of promise that the journey I am taking holds excitement or adventure or surprise. Billy may have whisked Sophie away, but Giovanna has left me standing – alone and apathetic, and ready to move on.

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