I have recently seen many book bloggers praise Dan Begley for writing a chick lit book. I find this really strange, since Ms. Taken Identity is not a chick lit novel. Yes, it is true that Begley's protagonist writes a novel about fashion, makeovers and women. But Dan Begley himself has written something far more rarer, especially for an American writer - an easy-to-read book about life, women and relationships written from a man's point of view, also known as a lad lit novel.
Ms. Taken Identity is about Mitch Samuel, an academic whose life is not the way he wants it to be. His dissertation on the subject of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is moving too slowly, he has a new student who is bugging the hell out of him, his girlfriend broke up with him. On top of that, the manuscript for his serious, epic novel has been turned down everywhere. Soon enough, a serendipitous moment unites Mitch with Katharine Longwell, the best-selling chick lit author, to whom he spins a story about a fictional cousin who has just finished a book. Smitten by Mitch, Katharine offers to help Mitch's cousin get the book published, and now it's up to him to write the novel in record time. Things get even more complicated when he goes about trying to understand women by taking dance classes and one woman in particular catches his eye.
In its genre, Begley's debut novel is a great read. It is obviously no literary fiction, but it is a fun, exciting ride from start to finish. The author breathes life into his characters - Mitch is a bitter academic in need of a personality makeover. Even when he does atone for his actions, he does not lose that fun, sarcastic note he has had since the very start. Also, the character of Katherine is a lot of fun to read, as she is a two-dimensional character at first, until Mitch realizes she may not be so trivial at all, which is when we can see there is certain depth to who she is and what she does.
The most impressive thing about Ms. Taken Identity, however, is the way Begley blurs the lines between the genres. Using the stereotypical chick lit elements, he writes a lad-lit novel, thus making us wonder if Mars and Venus are really that far away from each other. There is a little bit of Nick Hornby here, especially when it comes to posing as a different person as a result of your own insecurities, as well as Tony Parsons, most evidently in scenes between Mitch and his estranged father. However, Ms. Taken Identity is a work of Dan Begley - a witty, talented writer, whose debut novel suggests that he is not far away from becoming American lad lit royalty.
Thanks to Dan Begley and Melissa Bullock.