Can You Keep a Secret?
The Shopaholic series was a guilty pleasure of mine last year, and was just the thing to read while, e.g., sitting in the vet’s office when my dog was terribly ill (he’s okay now, thanks for asking), so I approached “Can You Keep a Secret” with both interest and a certain amount of trepidation. Kinsella has a formula that works for her, so I assumed that this latest book would be formulaic. But would it be intolerably so?
The answer for me was both yes and no. “Can You Keep a Secret?” definitely follows the pattern that Kinsella set with the original Shopaholic series, of a ditzy and insecure young woman stumbling into good fortune, figuratively and literally, by meeting a high-powered executive and charming the socks and everything else off of him. This SHOULD be complete BS, but somehow Kinsella makes it work.
No, not somehow. She makes it work because her heroines are indeed extremely charming, full of high spirits and keenly aware of the ridiculousness of the positions in which they find themselves, and are always able to overcome their external obstacles and internal insecurities to come out on top, save the day, and get the guy. Kinsella also sprinkles on the glitz and glamor with a liberal hand, but is still able to provide a pretty sharp critique of modern consumerist society and the way it can brainwash people into overspending and chasing after things that aren’t actually that important. And she’s got a great eye for the ways in which people feed themselves false narratives that they then cling to long past all sense. Not to mention a sparkling prose style.
“Can You Keep a Secret?” did, however, strike me as a little formulaic. What felt surprisingly groundbreaking in the early Shopaholic books felt a little more like retreading the same ground here. Furthermore, there were some things that gave me the sense that neither she nor her editor could be bothered to smooth out the details: e.g., Emma is 25, but if Jack actually started his company back in the 1980s, he must be twice her age, but the age difference never really comes up. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, but a 25-year age gap between partners is a biggish deal in my book.
Still, “Can You Keep a Secret?” goes down very smoothly, like cake or one of the Panther colas that Emma is supposed to be selling. If you’re looking for some hard-hitting realism or an in-depth examination of the dark side of the human soul, you’ll probably want to keep on looking, but if you enjoy Kinsella’s other books or the genre in general, you’re likely to enjoy this quite a lot.