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Getting Over Jack Wagner    by Elise Juska order for
Getting Over Jack Wagner
by Elise Juska
Order:  USA  Can
Downtown Press, 2003 (2003)

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* *   Reviewed by Rashmi Srinivas

Eliza has a penchant for dating 'rock stars'. They don't have to be stars per se; as long as they're musicians, that's more than enough for Eliza. This infatuation began when she was a young girl and her first crush was a rock star called Jack Wagner. After Entertainment Tonight reported that he was involved with someone, Eliza set her sights lower to the guys at school who played at talent shows, those who formed a band and bleated out tasteless music and so on.

Now twenty-six years old, she's stuck in a rut, unable to stop herself from picking up 'rock stars'. Typically, she's with one for a while trying to convince herself that he's the one for her, but inevitably she is disappointed to find that her idol has feet of clay. This is especially true after his mother enters the picture; he transforms into a mama's boy, and then breaks it off. This comes as no surprise to Eliza's friends (Hannah and Andrew) and her family (her happily married mother and sister) who've all come to expect this pattern from Eliza and keep trying to change her. And all this angst stems from the moment Eliza's father walked out, leaving behind a void which Eliza, her mom and her sister have tried to fill, in varied but oddly similar ways.

Getting Over Jack Wagner is Elise Juska's debut novel and it reads rather like a diary spanning fifteen odd years of dating 'rock stars' and undergoing life experiences. The book is semi-autobiographical in nature. It is written in first person, narrated by Eliza, who loosely catalogs her life progressing from childhood friendships to the trauma of abandonment, to teenage crushes and teenage rebellion, on to adolescent gropings, and finally to dating rock stars which she then transforms into a kind of routine.

Throughout it all, to alternately help, criticize, tease and pamper are Eliza's two very good, but widely different, friends - Hannah (who psychoanalyzes everything) and Andrew (who teases her and makes her laugh). The characters are interesting and evocative and the narrative mostly evokes sympathy for Eliza. Though there are some moments of humor, the overall tone is slightly melancholy. It's not a perfect happy ending, but does finish on a hopeful note, which is more believable. And the book closes with a question and answer session with the author herself, in which she reveals the truth behind the fictional account.

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