Entertainment » Books

A Girl Named Charlie Lester

by Ellen Wernecke
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Aug 16, 2008
A Girl Named Charlie Lester

If readers didn't find out right from the start that she ended up landing on her feet, they might be rightfully worried about Charlie Lester. The Goth-ish teenager, who lost her parents in an accident and her brother to the outside world, escapes by the skin of her teeth from her tyrannical aunt's house. Eight years after leaving behind the toxic ambivalence of life with her minimum-wage guardian, Charlie ends up part-owner of her own bookstore where she and her friends hire only the best-looking job applicants and sass the customers they can't stand.

It isn't made clear exactly how Charlie, the girl with the guy's name, happened to go from teen dropout to small entrepreneur, at least not in terms of facts and figures. But what A Girl Named Charlie Lester gets right in great detail is the camaraderie among young part-timers at motley bars and large entertainment chains. Against the potentially deadening monotony of their jobs, Charlie and her best friends Gwen and Spot have their passions -- like Gwen's pottery, an obsession that propels her through a horrible break-up and several second-rate jobs. And they have each other to guide them through their voyage of self-discovery.

Less successfully written is Charlie's emotional journey from first boyfriend to first girlfriend. The method of her awakening to the potential of girls is, at best, stolen from an "Undressed" episode, and despite a few scenes written from his perspective, her boyfriend the tattoo artist comes off as a cipher. Still, "A Girl Named Charlie Lester" is "Reality Bites" without the cheesy romantic ending or a soulful Ethan Hawke gazing into the camera. While Charlie's ascendance may not stand up to scrutiny, her bond with her fellow workers is stronger than their collective ennui.

Aforementioned Productions, $14.95, 227 pages. Available at booksellers everywhere or online through Amazon.

Ellen Wernecke’s work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and The Onion A.V. Club, and she comments on books regularly for WEBR’s "Talk of the Town with Parker Sunshine." A Wisconsin native, she now lives in New York City.

Comments on Facebook