By Jen Lancaster. NAL. 320 pages. $25.95
Reviewed by Nona Nelson
In author Jen Lancaster’s second work of fiction, she takes the reader “Back to the Future” with a protagonist — one of high school’s “Mean Girls” — that is suddenly “Seventeen Again” and caught in “The Matrix” of time travel on a mission of self-discovery and redemption.
“Here I Go Again” is a breezy read with a story that gives a wink and a nod to classic time travel movies, with a lot of teenage — and middle age — angst mixed in.
Melissa “Lissy” Ryder has spent her life as spoiled, self-centered wretch. As the head cheerleader/prom queen of her suburban Illinois high school, she took pleasure in inflicting pain and humiliation on her classmates. Her personality and attitude do not improve as she becomes an adult.
Suddenly, as a 37-year-old woman who chronically takes advantage of her friends, family and employer, she finds her world crumbling. Fired from her job, asked for a divorce from her husband and kicked out of her Chicago condo, she ends up sleeping in her childhood bedroom, waking up each morning to the vision of her faded David Coverdale poster.
She wallows in self-pity, piles on 30 pounds, whines to her enabling mother and cajoles her long-suffering dad into paying off her credit cards.
Lissy hopes to change her fortune by attending her 20-year class reunion, but she does not get the reception she envisioned. She is verbally slapped with the truth of how atrocious she was in high school and learns how much the members of the class of 1992 despise her — both then and now.
With the help of a shaman/holistic healer (a former classmate that was of the many targets of Lissy’s ridicule) she finds a way to go back to 1991 and right all the wrongs she did as a teenager. What Lissy doesn’t realize is how much a few small changes in the past can alter the course of the future, and not always the way she hoped.
This work is what Lancaster has always given her readers, whether in her memoirs or novels: a witty story full of snarky one-liners, pop culture tidbits and more than a few laughs. Lancaster writes sharp dialogue and, as far-fetched as the premise is, her storytelling whisks the reader along for the improbable ride.
“Here I Go Again” is lighthearted fare and will bring a smile to readers who enjoyed any of the above mentioned movies and/or 80s glam rockers.