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Miss Understanding    by Stephanie Lessing order for
Miss Understanding
by Stephanie Lessing
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2006 (2006)

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*   Reviewed by Kerrily Sapet

Why are girls so often mean to each other? They pick on clothes that other girls are wearing, undermine relationships between other girls, and try to get a leg up in the world by pushing other girls down. Zoe Rose, new deputy editor of fashion magazine Issues, is about to find out. She plans to shock her readers, who so far only read advice columns and makeup tips, into realizing the folly of their ways. Zoe wants all women to work together to eradicate a world in which women undermine women.

So begins Miss Understanding by Stephanie Lessing. The story starts when Zoe's sister Chloe comes over to help Zoe pick out an outfit for her first day at work. She finds little beyond a pair of old jeans, dirty T-shirts, and mismatching socks. Unlike Chloe, who is the new shoe editor of Issues magazine, Zoe is no clothes horse. When Zoe arrives at work, she is met by her brother-in-law Dan (who runs the magazine) and his evil mother. She makes quick enemies of the stick thin, beautifully dressed, catty models who also work there. Zoe has her work cut out for her when she introduces her new agenda for the magazine. No one gets it. (She does make one fast friend, Alex, and is convinced she knows her from someplace else.) As things heat up at work, Zoe also begins to feel sick. Already a hypochondriac, she now has symptoms galore and can't figure out what's going on. On top of all that, the handsome, kind, and devoted boyfriend she lives with is pressuring her to marry him. It all adds up and comes to a speedy, if not unforeseeable conclusion.

While Lessing's writing style is sometimes humorous, Zoe is too often unbelievable. There are many women in this world who don't shop incessantly, aren't ready for marriage, want to delve deeper into issues, and have felt excluded by other women. But Zoe cranks these feelings up to a notch that is irritating by the end of the book. She appears whiny and irrational, often hiding in the bathroom or flirting with a pimply delivery guy to get her way. Although many readers will agree with her principles, ultimately her personality may rub people the wrong way. Just as often as Zoe doesn't seem to take other characters' feelings into account, readers may not care about hers too much by the end of the book either.

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