How do you judge a book? We’re told not to judge a book by its cover, but what about judging a book by its author?
When I heard that Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of Jersey Shore fame had written a fiction novel, I was skeptical to say the least. I then learned that Gorilla Beach, was not her first but her second novel and third book overall. Her first novel, A Shore Thing, which I’d assumed, based on the photo of herself on the cover, was an autobiography, is a novel about two guidette cousins living it up in Seaside Heights. The two guidettes, Giovanna “Gia” Spumanti and Isabelle “Bella” Rizzoli, are idealized versions of Snooki and cast-mate Jenni ‘JWOWW’ Farley.
Gorilla Beach begins with the girls returning after a winter in Brooklyn, to vacation in Seaside Heights and attend the wedding of their friend Maria. Things, however, are not as they left them the previous summer. Maria has undergone a complete makeover and now associates with fur wearing mafiosas, who throw her a bachelorette party in a tacky cowboy themed club owned by Fredo, the son of one of the mafiosas. The girls aren’t impressed, especially when they find Fredo with his pants down in the ladies room and the lights off so he doesn’t have to look at his own poo.
Things go from slightly crummy to crummier when they discover their summer digs are less than stellar. When Gia gets into a fight at Maria’s wedding she and Bella are forced to leave Seaside. Lucky for them Fredo is there to save the day. He whisks them off to Atlantic City in his Cadillac and sets them up in the premier suite.
Things just keep on getting better and better as the girls dine in luxury, admire the beach’s “gorillas” (aka guys with a lot of muscles and tans) and fall in love. Unfortunately, their happiness doesn’t last and a bit of actual drama is introduced when the sleazy, toupee wearing casino owner suspects they’re cheating at roulette and sets his spies on them. Things get really hairy for the girls when their winnings are stolen and the casino kicks them out, taking Fredo’s cadillac in compensation for the damage they caused when they drunkenly kidnap the owner’s crocodiles and set them loose in the spa. How will the girls get themselves out of this pickle? With pluck and candor of course. Or so we’re supposed to believe.
Gia and Bella aren’t exactly the deepest characters in the world. Unfortunately, vital information is given to the reader without much literary style, plunked down in places where it’s convenient or is needed to give credit to the plot. Not that the plot is very credible, it seems to rely on a lot of coincidences and lucky breaks and no effort on the part of its characters. No matter what, they’re always able to maintain the lifestyle and looks they’ve become accustomed to and someone (usually a man) is always there to get them out of a jam.
Bella is supposed to be the smart one and Gia the ditzy one and yet Bella never once does anything with her intellect to help them out and then it’s Gia who comes up with a scheme for revenge on the casino owner and grifter who stole their winnings. Gia is clearly the character Snooki imagines herself to be, so it’s no coincidence that Gia is loved by everyone, is an endearing ditz and super generous. To be fair, Snooki is generous when it comes to giving JWOWW’s character equal polish; Bella is smart, tall, athletic, sexy and suffers from caregiver syndrome (i.e. she loves to care for people too much).
However, you can’t fault the novel for being what it is, it’s a light read, sometimes funny and definitely appealing to fans of Jersey Shore and readers who like their books fluffy pink. Not everyone is a reader of deep, introspective fiction and there is nothing wrong with liking your books on the lighter side. Snooki wrote this book for those people. The book is not pretending to be anything other than what it is.
That being said, even light, ‘beach reads’ need to be held to the same professional standard as every other publication. The editing of this book was horrendous. Snooki credits Lauren McKenna as her editor, but it doesn’t seem like there was any editing done at all. The novel is riddled with typos, spelling errors and grammar mistakes. As a student of English it was a real shame to see something go to print in such terrible condition. When you’re expected to pay nearly thirty dollars for a book it should be perfect.
All things considered, Gorilla Beach, was not as bad as I expected it to be, based on my opinion of its author. There were some creative metaphors, funny quips and I have to admit it was a fairly entertaining read. So if you’re going to the beach this summer or want to pretend that you are, Gorilla Beach might just be worth taking along.