cover image Here’s Looking at You

Here’s Looking at You

Mhairi McFarlane. Avon, $14.99 trade paperback (448p) ISBN 978-0-00755947-3

A snide modern ugly-duckling tale gives lip service to the message of being happy with who you are, but its characters remain shallow and obsessed with juvenile expectations of the ways men and women ought to behave. Aureliana Alessi, still haunted by her teen years as the “Italian Galleon” and laughingstock at her East London high school, has settled into a successful history professorship and slimmed into a stunner. Her dating life is still a mess of awkward Internet-mediated mishaps. Through a work assignment, Anna reencounters school heartthrob and bully James Fraser, who becomes interested in her without realizing their history together. Anna’s supportive friend Michelle and colleague Patrick give her the bravery to move forward, while James is impeded by soon-to-be-ex-wife Eva and womanizing drinking buddy Laurence. McFarlane’s story is infused with the humor of a 21st-century comedy of errors, but it lacks romantic warmth; Anna and James don’t discover true love, but merely settle into a mutually higher level of socially acceptable success. (June)