Book Review:  What A Cheap, Cheesy Rip-Off Of Two Dead People

Publication date:  May 2022

Category:  Women’s Friendship Fiction, Mothers and Children Fiction, Women’s Domestic Life Fiction

Review, short version:  The above skunks and more.

Review, long version:

Perhaps, in this post’s title, instead of “cheap” I should have used the word “expensive,” since the dust jacket on Emily Giffin’s Meant to Be says “$28.”

But I got the word “cheesy” right:  “not very good or original, and lacking style in a way that is embarrassing; shabby.”

And I got “rip-off” right, too:  “a cheap, exploitive imitation; an inferior imitation of something.”

Meant to Be is based on two actual people, and I know that authors base characters on actual people all the time.  Sometimes those characters are described as “thinly disguised.”

But there was nothing “disguised” – thinly or otherwise – in Giffin’s two lead characters, Joe Kingsley and Cate Cooper.

They’re straight, direct rip-offs of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy:

JFK, Jr., Carolyn, and her sister Lauren, died in the crash of the plane he was flying in 1999.

But the rip-off wasn’t enough for Giffin.  She also somehow presumes to think she knows John and Carolyn so well that she writes each of them in the first person, as though she’d somehow been privy to their thoughts.

Utter nonsense.

Giffin is nothing more than a Kennedy groupie.  In her author’s note at the end of the book, she writes:

“After I graduated from law school in 1997, I moved to New York, took the bar exam, and went to work at a large firm.

“I had never lived in a big city before, and it was crazy to think that I might at any moment run into JFK, Jr., or his wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, whether on the subway, in Central Park, or at their usual Tribeca haunts, from El Teddy’s to Bubby’s to the Odeon.”

Did I say “groupie”?

Maybe I should have said “stalker.”

In just the first few pages of, and then throughout, the book, we’re practically smothered in information Giffin simply lifted from JFK, Jr.’s life:

Joe Kingsley and John Kennedy – same initials.  Joe has a dog named “Thursday,” JFK, Jr. had a dog named “Friday.”  Joe’s family is American “royalty,” like JFK, Jr.’s. family. Joe’s father died when Joe was three, like JFK, Jr.’s father did.  Joe’s father is buried at Arlington, like JFK, Jr.’s father is.  Joe’s father had a rocking chair, like JFK, Jr.’s father did. 

It continues….

Joe’s father served in World War II, like JFK, Jr.’s father did.   Joe’s father ran for Senate, like JFK, Jr.’s father did.  Joe’s mother is a fashion icon, like JFK, Jr.’s mother was.  Joe marries a woman whose first name begins with “C,” like JFK, Jr. did.  Joe is a pilot, just like JFK, Jr. was.  Joe’s plane crashes, just like JFK, Jr.’s plane did.  There’s a “Kingsley curse,” just like the “Kennedy curse.”

And as for the Cate character, I don’t know much about Carolyn’s background so Giffin may – may – have showed a scintilla of imagination there.

It’s almost as if Giffin was on a deadline for her next novel and desperate to come up with a storyline, so she copied some online JFK, Jr. and Carolyn stories, pasted them into Word, then hit the “Find and Replace” feature:

So, I think Meant to Be is tripe.

Even the cover of the book is a rip-off:

I headed on over to Amazon to see what others were saying about the book and – no surprise here – I’m out of step with 83% of Amazon reviewers and the 4.3 out of 5 stars rating.

So I skipped the four- and five-star reviews and went straight to one- and two-stars – here’s a sampling:

Skip this one
In Author’s Note Emily writes that the characters are purely fictional, while she uses John and Caroline’s story to create the story line of this book.  Keeping the story of their tragic loss alive for $$$.  Unoriginal and will not read her books again.

Don’t bother
I hated this book because the author just lazily re-wrote the romance of JFK and Carolyn Bessette, all of which is public record and therefore required zero creativity or real imagination…

An embarrassment for the author and me
I’ve read other Giffin novels. They’re simple and somewhat trite, but I’ve enjoyed the sentimentality.  This one was dreadful.  An embarrassment for the author who spun this pathetic “novel.”  An embarrassment for me that I finished it.  

I, too, am embarrassed that I finished Meant to Be.

There are so many other worthwhile things I could have been doing with my time.

Such as…changing the stale air in my tires…

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