Member Review

Cover Image: Simply the Best

Simply the Best

Pub Date:

Review by

Colleen C, Librarian

4.25 Stars. Well, here's another great one from Kallmaker. This time it is a bit of a Devil Wears Prada but the Miranda Priestly character is actually bad. It also brings up issues with how many products sold for women advertise themselves and how it balances capitalistic urges with actual female empowerment a la GOOP. These themes are handled well, and it has a really good romance at the core of it. While I think it probably went on alittle too long and has some problems with forcing characters in to some archetypes that they may not belong in, it still is a great read.

First off, I love Pepper Addington. She's the idealistic intern/ assistant character who idolizes her boss, the charismatic Helene Jolie. I believe she subverts the naïve assistant character because she mostly realizes what 'Simply the Best' is selling but does believe in the overall good she thinks the company does. Of course that gets stripped away, along with her idolization of Jolie as we see the mask slowly get stripped away. When it finally happens, Pepper isn't forced to get swallowed up in the miasma of bad that we can see is brewing, but is allowed to break out of it on her own terms. She also mostly is able to see through things on her own without her love interest, Alice Cabot, telling her about it. Alice, unfortunately kind of gets crammed into the heavy drinking, broody butch archetype that I don't quite she her being. She's disillusioned with her career, in a way that Pepper could have been if she was given time to stew in the crap that is 'Simply the Best', but I feel like it was taken to an extreme.

I do have to point out that, holy crap does it do a great job on how people react to powerful, female predators. Helene Jolie is charismatic, powerful, and beautiful and she knows it. She plays with her assistants then discards them. When Alice notices how Helene treats Pepper, she makes a note to say she'd know what was happening if Helene was a man, but it was harder to tell. Even Pepper, as uncomfortable she is when Helene, say puts her hand on the small of her back and turns up the charm, doesn't really know what to make of it. This smoothly points out, not the hypocrisy of how we treat female predators, but how we are culturally trained to look at men and women and judge the same behavior - on its face- differently, especially if it is a woman who is predating on other women. Super well done.

I do believe it drags in places, but does make up for that with some really good takes on industries selling female empowerment and how does people handle female serial sexual harassers with power. I do wish that Alice was as complex as Pepper was, or at the very least, forced into an archetype that I thought she doesn't quite fit. Still, Kallmaker does an darned good job overall, and I will more than likely have this one in my re-read pile.

*I received this ARC in exchange form my honest review.
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