Dating Without Novocaine
by Lisa Cach, contemporary (2002)
Red Dress Ink, $12.95, ISBN 0-373-25014-2


I don't need Novocaine to read this book. This book is the Novocaine. This is my first Red Dress Ink - Harlequin's attempt to cash in the Bridget Jones fad oh, a year too late - and I understand that this line is supposed to be hip and trendy.

There's no mention of Silhouette or Harlequin anywhere in this book. That Duncan Mill Road sweatshop is now called "Worldwide Library". A nice name for an overly glamorized sweatshop, I must say. Almost makes me think that "literacy" has anything to do with what they produce.

Anyway, it's not a good sign for the book when I spend more time inspecting the credits, copyright notes, cover, and the barcode than paying attention to the story. In fact, the Novocaine bit only settles in late in the story, unless we're talking about my state of Novocaine-d by that stage, numb and drooling from my mouth like an incontinent old coot because I am so stupefied by boredom at that point.

Okay, the story. It's about Hannah O'Dowd trying to find True Love so that she will have babies before she's thirty. She and her friends Cassie and Scott and some hangers-on spend the whole story attending New Age compatibility things, moaning at trendy cafes, repeat and rinse. That's it.

Of course, the description of the story can easily apply to so many British chick-lit stuff out there, but Dating Without Novocaine falls short of being even close to her British counterparts. Why? Where shall I start?

Well, for one, it's not very hip. Every good chick lit book needs lots of name droppings, contemporary artist bashing, rich people bashing, and most importantly, male bashing to qualify as "cool". Bitchy is the modus operandi here. Evil jealous cats waiting to shred other kitties with their claws. Dating Without Novocaine is just too nice, relying on bizarre New Age antics of weirdos for the laughs. Ergo, a nice dose of Novocaine coming up.

Two, lack of bitchiness. Where's the profanity? If you ask me, a good trendy chick lit book can always use a few "fat cows" and "ugly twats" here and there. Again, this book is too nice and sweet, poking fun at people who are, well, weird and deserve all the mockery we reserve for sad people. Where's the mocking for the sake of mocking? Why aren't there any Chelsea Clinton or George W Bush jokes? If this is a British novel, Marge Thatcher and Tony Blair would be bleeding from stomach wounds by now.

Three, lack of anything happening. Dinners, dinners, dinners, dates, dates, dates. Gets really old after three chapters.

Four, the resolution of the story. Hannah may have found the right man, but hey, let's wait and hope for the best, yes? I suffered through an overdose of Novocaine for THIS? Good grief.

In short, Dating Without Novocaine may want to be trendy hip fun, but it's toothless, clawless, and too tame to be anything but unadulterated Novocaine itself. Maybe next time Lisa Cach will stab her annoying editor and really let her hair down and let it rip. Come on, a country with Chelsea Clinton (and her parents) and the crazy Bush twin girls plus a president single-handedly reinventing the English language, and all this book can come up in cultural references are... New Age compatibility funny and voodoo dolls? Uh-oh, not cool.

Rating: 50


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