The Corset Diaries
by Katie MacAlister, contemporary (2004)
Onyx, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-41112-9


I have to hand it to Katie MacAlister - after reading The Corset Diaries, I am in awe of her ability to transform her heroines, be they 21, 39, or 199 in age, into unlikeable, shrill, brain-damaged imbeciles. In every book, she seems more determined to make her heroines even more immature, even more hateful, even more stupid, and more... more... more... well, she probably won't stop until her reader's brain explode into mush. She seems to be getting more fans with each increasingly painful book, mind you, if the feedback I get from furious MacAlisterites is anything to go by, so she must be doing something right. I just don't know what that is, though.

In this book, our heroine Tessa Riordan is a 39-year old plus-sized history professor from America who becomes yet another American to go to England to torment the people there. Katie MacAlister's transplanted Americans in England would cause a riot there and force Tony Blair to go all Pauline Hanson on Americans, so it's nice to know that these idiot women in question are fictitious. Very nice to know, if I may say so. Tessa decides to join some reality show there where she will play a duchess and fall for the man playing the duke, Max.

Every page of this book deals with Tessa whining like a complete brainsucked protozoan slime bob. For a historian, she is inexplicably horrified that she has to wear a corset or that life in the Victoria era isn't all teacups and tea. Tessa whines about everything and anything - she's the only heroine I know who complains that the food is shaped like poo. Then again, a turd should recognize another turd, I guess. Tessa is said to have nursed her late husband through his fight with cancer. Call me evil, but my first thought is: "No wonder he died, that poor sod!"

Toilet humor will work if this book isn't so schizophrenic. Tessa is utterly inconsistent as a character and she whines for the sake of whining alone. Problems crop up in this book that are so petty in nature and are treated with temper tantrums from both Max and Tessa that I suspect that these people can't pull on a sock in the morning without complaining that their toes are too fat and everything sucks. Conversations are stupefying because every line from Tessa and Max are remarkably dumb, so dumb that I suspect that this book is written for thirteen-year old boys that still think it's funny to bend over and release gas over a lighter. But these boys would probably throw up at the yucky love thingie in this book, so I really don't know.

It's not just Tessa and Max that will cause the Darwin Awards to be cancelled because they will just keep winning every year and there is no point anymore - every other character from Max's really slapworthy daughter to the castmembers that act like spoiled brats is equally, putrefyingly, braincell-killingly dumb and shrill. Human beings don't live in The Corset Diaries, that's for sure.

Utterly vulgar but unfortunately, vulgarly dumb at the same time, The Corset Diaries is Katie MacAlister at an all-time plot-free character-free low. The scary thing is, I have a feeling that she will have no trouble digging even lower in no time. Can someone - the editor? - please tell her to not just focus on letting her heroine whine her way to the last page? Please, plot and characterization also matter, even though it's easy to overlook that part of the equation when the money is pouring in.

Rating: 01


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