The Givenchy Code

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Sunday, October 29, 2006
by Julie Kenner #30

This is a fun book, but I feel like I need to qualify the fun. This makes me wonder if the reader feels the need to qualify, is it really fun? The answer in this instance is yes. After all, there are many kinds of fun, and one of them is that dizzy feeling caused by frequent eye-rolling and rapid page turning.

Let's start with the cover -- for a chick lit book (and oh, how I loathe that term, but it is what it is) this is fantastic. No cartoons! No shopping bags! A cool torn-paper effect with just some made-up eyes to indicate the chapters spent on grooming within. Best of all is the acid green color with binary code superimposed over everything. It calls out to my childhood girl-spy fantasies, I suppose. Anyway, somebody in the marketing department did a really great job.

On the cover there is also the promise that "Cryptography is the new black." IF ONLY, is what I say. Here's where the eye-rolling begins. This story is a mess, but maybe "mess" is too strong. Hideously compressed is probably more fair. The gist, and I don't think I'm giving anything away here, is that our heroine, Mel Prescott, gets sucked into a real life version of an online game called PSW (for Play. Survive. Win.) in which (through some vague hand-waving) there is an assassin out to kill her, a dude sent to protect her, and a bunch of clues that she must solve in a timely manner... or DIE. (Do you suppose the guy sent to protect her is a tortured but handsome noble ex-marine of few words, but much sexy action? You suppose correctly.)

Anyway, Mel is a smarty pants with an interest in cryptography (which is cool -- I actually wish they'd spent more time on code stuff) who is also a brand-snob shopping addict who works a million jobs to support her 5th Avenue habit. This second aspect became tiresome. Not because I'm anti-shopping, or anti-girlie stuff at all, but because... well, because it seemed cribbed from the fall-fashion issue of Vogue and Sex and the City then stapled with the edges crooked to her smarts in order to approximate depth. It was "blah blah Brand Name, blah blah I LOVE SHOES, blah blah, enigma machine."

Speaking of the city... this novel takes place in New York and features the most superficial rendering of the city I've read in a while. There is no real sense of place, except for things that could be copied out of a not particularly inspired guide book. (Look, it's the Statue of Liberty, it's Grand Central Station, it's the Plaza Hotel, it's St. Patrick's Cathedral, it's... Madison Avenue.) Actually, this reminds me in some ways of a movie novelization! I think the story wouldn't seem so thin if there was more time spent on grounding the ridiculous plot in a real setting, which I think could be done visually. Anyway, this reads like an awful lot of bitching for something I did enjoy. It is just about the perfect bathtub book, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. (it's not too heavy, it stays open, the paper is the kind that dries really fast if your fingers are wet, the chapters are really short if you decide to take a nap, etc.)
2 comments on "The Givenchy Code"
  1. Well, now I have another book on hold at the library...I finished Dead Beat last week and I really loved it. The other book about the teenage private eye rockstar was also good, but I can't remember the name of it. Whatev's. Reading is fun.

  2. I don't know how I missed this comment before! You'll have to tell me how you like this book (or how you don't). It was a quick rompy read, which if you ask me is part of the fun of reading (viva variety!). I'm glad you liked The Dead Beat, too, but that doesn't really surprise me since it was so good.


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