After reading Twisted Sisters last year, I was worried that I would not enjoy any more of Jen Lancaster’s fiction, but I decided to try again. And you know what? I actually really liked The Best of Enemies. Is it because I read it at a time when I really needed something entertaining and easy? Maybe. But that’s not just it. Jen’s actually getting better; she’s expanding beyond her life experiences and making new stories. It’s really cool to watch her range grow. And yes, the two alternating voices who tell the story of The Best of Enemies totally still have Jen’s distinctive, snarky tone, but they are not her memoir voice. They’re different. And I will go so far as to say that of the two of her books that I’ve read most recently, I actually enjoyed The Best of Enemies more than I Regret Nothing, which is a change.
Of course this new novel is very plot-driven, but there’s not a whiff of the fantasy that we’ve found in Jen’s last two novels (see my posts about Here I Go Again and Twisted Sisters). I was actually somewhat disappointed to not get to see more of Deva, the hippie-dippy astral projecting/time travelling character from Here I Go Again and Twisted Sisters, but the quality of the story was much better than those other two books, so I won’t complain too much.
Granted, the two main characters of this new one are drawn with broad strokes. They are essentially caricatures of real women, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t true portraits. Here were meet Kitty Caricoe and Jacqueline “Jack” Jordan, who were roommates their freshman year in college until Jack accidentally sleeps with Kitty’s sort-of ex-boyfriend. Somehow they manage to both stay BFF’s with the same girl, Sarabeth Chandler, who Kitty calls Betsy and Jack calls Sars. The novel is told in the first person, with Jack and Kitty as our narrators. Sarabeth’s husband vanishes under mysterious circumstances and somehow the two end up working together to investigate his disappearance. Jack is an investigative reporter, so it doesn’t make absolutely no sense that this happens, but it sort of makes no sense. That’s okay. The plot lends itself to spoilers, and I’m not going to get into it, because the surprises were part of what made this book so enjoyable to me. “Watching” Kitty and Jack remember why they were friends when they first met was, well, lovely. Jen Lancaster actually writes female friendships really well. She hasn’t really done that before in her fiction that I remember. Mostly she writes about awful women doing awful things and learning lessons about how one should be kinder to people. Here, her two main characters are not really awful people (except in their heads) who need to change their lives before they get run out of town like Lissy Ryder and Reagan Bishop were about to be before fate intervened and led them down different paths.
Overall, I recommend this book to people who either love Jen Lancaster or who enjoy chick lit; this is not a book for lovers of literary fiction, for obvious reasons. But if you need something to keep you entertained on a long road trip, consider The Best of Enemies. It will make the hours in the car go more quickly.