Book Review: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

I don’t know what I expected this book to be. It was funnier than I expected. It wasn’t nearly as inappropriate as I feared it would be. It was a fun, quick one-day read. I sacrificed myself to car sickness to keep reading it, which is a good sign, and I literally laughed out loud, often.

4/5 stars

Genre: adult contemporary fiction…ish (I don’t really know what you call this)

Book one of the Stephanie Plum series, One for the Money

cover one for the money


Amazon description:

Watch out, world. Here comes Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter with attitude. In Stephanie’s opinion, toxic waste, rabid drivers, armed schizophrenics, and August heat, humidity, and hydrocarbons are all part of the great adventure of living in Jersey.
She’s a product of the “burg,” a blue-collar pocket of Trenton where houses are attached and narrow, cars are American, windows are clean, and (God forbid you should be late) dinner is served at six.
Now Stephanie’s all grown up and out on her own, living five miles from Mom and Dad’s, doing her best to sever the world’s longest umbilical cord. Her mother is a meddler, and her grandmother is a few cans short of a case.
Out of work and out of money, with her Miata repossessed and her refrigerator empty, Stephanie blackmails her bail bondsman cousin, Vinnie, into giving her a try as an apprehension agent. Stephanie knows zilch about the job requirements, but she figures her new pal, fearless bounty hunter Ranger, can teach her what it takes to catch a crook.
Her first assignment: nail Joe Morelli, a former vice cop on the run from a charge of murder one. Morelli is also the irresistible macho pig who took Stephanie’s virginity at age sixteen and then wrote the details on the bathroom wall of Mario’s Sub Shop. There’s still powerful chemistry between these two, so the chase should be interesting.
It could also be extremely dangerous, especially when Stephanie encounters a heavyweight title contender who likes to play rough. Benito Ramirez is known for his brutality to women. At the very least, his obsession with Stephanie complicates her manhunt and brings terror and uncertainty into her life. At worst, it could lead to murder.

I’ve been seeing Janet Evanovich’s name for years–in my mom’s bookshelf, in book stores, even on a few bus stop posters. I knew they were adult, and I knew my mom found them hilarious. I asked her if she thought I’d like them, and she ordered me book one off of Paperback Swap in answer.

She was right. This isn’t my new favorite series. Frankly, I’m just not really comfortable reading NA/adult books yet. I know I like YA more, and I’m a sucker for fantasy and paranormal, so this series isn’t going to take over my life. I plan to read the books in between other series, when I need a breath of fresh air. As breaths of fresh air go, this book was pretty awesome. I gave it 4/5 stars for these reasons, even though there isn’t anything definitely wrong with the book–it’s just not my new best friend, more like that girl you share a few class periods with and complain about homework with.

The characterization is great. Stephanie is lovable in her awkward, impossibly naive way. She’s not cut out to be a bounty hunter–at all–and it’s hilarious. At the same time, though, I respected Evanovich for writing a female character who takes on the big bad world without an ounce of badassery, who is still strong as hell in her own way. She feels real, as do the rest of the characters.

Stephanie’s parents were perfectly infuriating, yet comforting. Each male figure in the book interacted with Stephanie a little differently, adding a sense of individual friendships and resentments which enhanced the realness of the book. Evanovich didn’t shy away from writing every sort of character–and when you meet Lula, you’ll love her.

Even with the largely humorous tone, the book touches on some dark topics–namely race and abusive men. I felt that Evanovich did an impressive job at capturing the awkward, degrading, unsettling feeling of knowing you’re a small white girl who’s stumbled into the wrong neighborhood. And she tackled the plot line with Ramirez (an insane boxer with a love of brutalizing women) well, making you feel actual fear for Stephanie, drawing you into her need to be strong even when her knees were giving out.

The book does a good job of setting up a series. It’s worth reading if you want a laugh, but also respect a book that doesn’t put the real world on it’s best behavior. Stephanie’s struggles with poverty and threats of abuse were powerful and vividly portrayed. Young adult readers can totally handle it, as long as you can handle themes of violence against women. For some people, the vividness of that part of the plot could be too much, and I would say make sure you know what you’re getting into with this series. It’ll make you laugh, but it won’t keep you from thinking.

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