Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Spin by Catherine McKenzie is a novel about 30-year-old Kate Sandford, a struggling music journalist in the  big city.  She freelances for small publications, writing about local bands.  Half her friends are still in college and think she's a 25-year-old graduate student, and they spend an awful lot of time partying.  Her best friend from home is on the opposite end of the spectrum - responsible and successful working hard in her career at a bank.    Things seem like they might actually be on the up for Kate, though, when she lands an interview for a position at her dream job:  writing for an edgy music magazine, The Line.  She completely tanks it, though, when she goes out to celebrate the interview and her birthday the night before, and shows up late and still drunk.  

So it's a huge surprise when Kate gets a call asking her to come back for another opportunity - and if she does well with this, she just may be able to get the job she applied for after all.  The assignment?  Going undercover at a rehab facility to get the dirt on Amber Sheppard, the celebrity It Girl of the moment, whose latest exploits have her the focus of every gossip source.  It's not The Line, but the tabloid is published from the same office, and the promise of another shot at her Dream Job is too good to pass up.  All she has to do is make it through the program with Amber, then deliver a juicy article afterward.

Things get complicated, though, when Amber becomes a person to Kate...a friend, actually...rather than just some messed up celebrity brat, and frustrating when friends and family don't seem surprised that she would be in rehab.  Then there is the further complication of Henry.  She needs to decide, and soon, whether her dream job at The Line is worth putting her new friendship (and possible blooming romance) on the line.

Okay, I will be honest.  I definitely thought this book sounded interesting when I read the blurb on Goodreads, which is why I requested it in one of the giveaways featured on the site.  But I also thought it might be kind of pretentious - I mean, it is about a girl who writes about local bands trying to get a job at a music magazine.  Not that all people who would fit that description are pretentious hipster music snobs, but for some reason I kept that in mind as a possibility for how this book would go.

It was not pretentious at all.  It was great.  Spin (maybe I'm wrong, but I want to say the title of the book comes from the title of the real-life magazine that may have been the inspiration for The Line) was captivating; fun and quick to get through, because I had a hard time putting it down.  I wasn't crazy about Kate in the beginning - she's a complete mess, which is not unlikable exactly, but she lies to her friends and is a pretty inconsiderate roommate, even if Joanne is a little bit on the stuffy side.  Kate's charismatic Scottish friend Greer reminds me of a girl I used to be close friends with; bold and a magnet for men.  I was totally sympathetic with Kate every time they went out together and Kate felt a little frumpy by comparison, because that was always me.  The Velma to my friend's Daphne.  Kate's life at the beginning of the book also brought me back to a time not so very long ago in my own life where alcohol was kind of making a lot of my decisions for me (though I never got anywhere near to the same level she is at).  It was not good, and that experience made me relate more to what Kate's going through, though she doesn't realize that it's a problem.  I think liking Kate was really set in stone for me especially when she nerdrages a little at the end of a showing of the BBC production of Jane Austen's Persuasion.  Kate, you are not alone!  I and basically the entire North Texas chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America are with you 100% - Anne Elliot would absolutely NEVER run through the streets of Bath after Captain Wentworth like it's some kind of cheesy romantic comedy.  Kate's ire over it made me think of this video that someone made in parody of the scene in question, setting Anne's infamous and unrealistic run to the music of Chariots of Fire, then again set to the well-known Benny Hill soundtrack, and finally again to a song from Run, Lola, Run.

Once Kate gets to rehab, things start to really turn around in all kinds of interesting ways.  I like her more and more throughout the rest of the book, as she starts to sober up and I get to see more of who she is.  I fully expected to be irritated by Amber and wanting to slap her every time she made an appearance, but I really liked her.  She wasn't at all the Lindsay Lohan/Paris Hilton type that I thought was coming, based on the hype we get from all the TMZ and other celebrity gossip Kate watches before going to the Oasis.  Amber is smart and just enough of a nerd to really and truly endear her to me - she gets Kate to sneak out of bed one night for a game of Risk, and exchanges notes with a boyfriend written in Esperanto.  The linguistics minor in me happily geeked out over that!  I mean yes, she is messed up - she's in rehab for drug addiction - but there is so much more to her than some spoiled and strung-out Hollywood-style brat, and I really cared a lot about her toward the end.  She struck me as a little like Lisa from Girl, Interrupted, only not a sociopath.

And did I mention Henry earlier?  I did?  Let's mention him again, shall we?  Attractive, athletic, intelligent gingers?  Strong, silent type?  Yes, please.  I was definitely book-crushing on him, and then he gets all protective at a club toward the end, and I kind of fell in love with him a little bit.  He's a total gentleman, and I really hope this book gets optioned for a movie someday, if only just to see what redheaded god among men would be cast to play Henry.

If you're not a huge romance person, though, don't avoid this just for that, because the romantic part of the story is certainly not dominating, and there is nothing explicit.

Apart from just the characters, I really enjoyed McKenzie's style of writing.  The narrative is told in Kate's voice, and she seems like someone I could easily see myself being friends with.  McKenzie has a new book, Arranged, coming out this summer, and if it's even half as engaging as Spin, I am very much looking forward to reading it.



William Morrow

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