I don't really know what happened here. All I know is that around page 50 or so, just when I'd reached the part about the magical talking fish, it suddenly occurred to me that Hooked was sending me through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief and tragedy. While my reactions to the book weren't perfectly lined up with each stage - I transposed steps one and two, it seems, I did touch all the bases, starting with anger, touched off by the first couple of sentences in the prologue.
Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom bursting with strip malls, luxury high-rises and enough bling to stretch across the Atlantic Ocean and back, Raymond Prince prepared to anoint a royal consort in the backseat of a cobalt blue Mercedes sedan. With a full moon as his guide, Raymond unhooked the front-loading brassiere of his target market and chuckled to himself. Damn, if those tan-lined double Ds didn't remind him of the headlights of an eighteen-wheeler!
I finished the prologue - he's a crass, unattractive used car salesman implausibly having sex in the back seat of one of the cars on the lot with an attractive young woman, and he's caught by his wife - put it down, and seethed over it for a couple of days. When I began to feel obligated to pick it back up, I shifted quickly into denial, and pretended like the book wasn't in my office at all. Instead, I buzzed through Susan Faludi's The Terror Dream and Max Brooks definitive record of global zombie war journalism, World War Z. Then I read December's issue of Vanity Fair.
Denial gave way to bargaining, where I promised myself that if I just finished it, I could put it quickly behind me and begin Matthew Sharp's Jamestown, the newest book from my book boyfriend Richard Nash.
Chapter One leaves Raymond Prince behind for the time being and introduces us to the principal characters, Woody, the assistant manager of the Trade Winds Yacht Club in South Florida, Todd Hollings, the rich boy, and Madalina, the Romanian waitress. The three form the points of a love triangle, Woody is in love with Madalina who is in love with Todd. Bad dialogue between cardboard characters bogs down several pages until Woody goes fishing at the request/order of the Overbearing New Jersey burgeois character and catches Raymond Prince, who has been turned into a fish, and the book takes a Fairy Tale turn. I have nothing against having to suspend disbelief in novels - I wouldn't read them at all if I did. It's just that my credulity had already been strained by the poorly drawn characters and the crass, leaden dialogue. It wasn't that I didn't find the talking fish somewhat surprising, it's just that, by this point, I didn't care. I already know Woody's going to chase after Madalina, she of the ridiculous Count Dracula accent, until he realizes he really loves the girl he met at his aunt's house that he wasn't initially impressed with. Plus I was starting to find all the male characters so repulsive that I started to shudder every time they started talking about their erections, which was way more frequently than necessary.
Depression set in when I realized that I had 200 pages to go before the two lovebirds finally sailed off into the sunset on the second hand boat Woody is constantly fixing up. My husband quickly ushered in the acceptance phase when he said, "You know, you don't have to finish it if you don't want to."
And you know? I don't.
So I didn't.
by Jane May
2007 by Kensington Books
Paperback, 245 pp.