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The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs
By Matthew Dicks
St. Martin's Press
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
Although most of the reading I do for this website tends to be either hip little indie novels or bizarrely strange science-fiction, I do like to also regularly pick up a title now and then that might best be called a "cozy novel," by which I mean domestic-based dramas set among gently conservative middle-class suburban families. And the latest such type of novel I've read, Matthew Dicks' The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs, is not a bad one for this type at all, although the first big thing you should be warned about is that this hits every single one of the cozy trademarks that are bound to drive people crazy when they're not already fans of such aspects; in particular, this book is especially guilty of one of the cozy traits that drives me craziest, of having teenagers first act like petulant, cellphone-staring little monsters, just to immediately have them transition to acting like middle-aged parents themselves as a way of resolving a plot point, without the teens ever being allowed a single moment in the book to act like actual teens. (And in general you could say that this is a general problem with cozy novels that stretches across several specific aspects of these books -- that they tend to be written in a way that a genteel suburban parent wishes the world worked, instead of the way the world actually works...which of course is the main reason such novels are so popular with genteel suburban parents in the first place.) Still, though, despite the easily guessable plot (SHOCKING SPOILER ALERT: sometimes teenage bullies grow up to regret their actions), and despite the randomly quirky details added for no other reason than to just be randomly quirky (Grandma runs a pet cemetery!), this was actually not too bad a book as far as cozy novels go, with a legitimately dark and moving ending that redeems much of the mediocre plot developments that come before. A mild recommendation in general, but much more strong for those who already prefer these kinds of low-stakes, basic-cable kind of stories.
Out of 10: 8.0, or 9.0 for fans of genteel suburban domestic dramas