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Published: Saturday, 8/2/2008

Heart throbs: Weiner, Shreve have heroines on the prowl


CERTAIN GIRLS. By Jennifer Weiner, Atria. 400 pages $26.95.

BODY SURFING. By Anita Shreve. Little, Brown. 320 pages. $25.99.

Jennifer Weiner stands out from the crowded pack of chick lit writers with her lovable plus-size heroines, her sharp wit and great dialogue.

Her legions of female fans devour every new novel. This one was especially anticipated because it brings back Cannie Shapiro, the beloved sharp-tongued heroine of her breakout novel, Good in Bed.

The last time we left our heroine, she was cracking jokes despite a father who ditched the family, a mother who came out as a lesbian, and her ex-boyfriend who wrote about his sex life with a fat girl (namely her) in a national magazine. Now Cannie, like Weiner herself, is all grown up and a mother.

She s a helicopter mom at that, hovering over daughter, Joy, who is hearing-impaired and preparing for her bat mitzvah. Yet she has rebounded from her louse of an ex-boyfriend, marrying a doctor, Peter.

While Weiner shows her irrepressible plus-size wit, her book doesn t have a strong voice and falls into many of cliches of mother-daughter tensions. It s an OK book, but just not what we have come to expect from the leader of the pink pack.

A more intriguing summer read is Anita Shreve s effort that captures the sultriness of a summer beach home.

Sydney Sklar, is hired by the WASP Edwards family to tutor daughter Julie at their beachfront New Hampshire cottage. Like many of Shreve s female characters, Sydney s love life has suffered. Divorced, then widowed, the 29-year-old takes this temporary job as she tries to regain her center.

Her passion is body surfing, and she is one with the water. Hands pointed, eyes shut, she is a bullet through the white surge.

She surfs into romantic complications when Julie s two brothers, Ben and Jeff, watch her surfing. Captivated, they vie for her attention.

Shreve s staccato prose, which is often lyrical, occasionally maddening, but always ominous, propels you forward on a strange romantic ride.

Sydney rides the ups and downs of love, getting battered by the current but always picking herself up. While Shreve leaves out some key facts the source of the tension between the two brothers her restrained style makes the reader hungry for the next sentence.

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