Book review: Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi’s “A Shore Thing”

One of the things Snooki is famous for.

When MTV’s “Jersey Shore” debuted on television screens in 2009, one of its biggest breakout stars was the diminutive Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi.

Since her television debut, Snooki has taken her career all the way to a well-received guest appearance on Wrestlemania XXVII, her own spin-off reality show, and now a New York Times bestselling book with “A Shore Thing”.

With “A Shore Thing” now on local bookshelves, I take a look at what it is exactly that makes Snooki such a hot commodity.

“A Shore Thing” follows cousins Giovanna “Gia” Spumanti and Isabella “Bella” Rizzoli as they spend two months in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. The cousins are both fleeing from their own problems back home in Brooklyn – Gia is running away from her parents’ divorce,  while Bella is escaping from her stalker ex-boyfriend, Bobby.

During their first few weeks in Seaside Heights, everything seems to go the way the cousins want it.  Bella gets a job teaching dance lessons at the local gym and catches the eye of its owner, Tony “Trouble” Troublino. Gia, on the other hand, becomes a local celebrity after saving a beached sand shark and inventing “tan-tags” for the local tanning salon.

However, things begin to unravel as Gia and Bella bump into roadblocks on their quest to have the perfect summer experience. Bella runs into Bender Newberry and Ed Caldwell, two preppy boys intent on making her their latest summer sexual conquest. Meanwhile, Gia runs into Linda Patterson and Janey Gordon, two former friends from high school who are intent on taking her down a peg or two.

With haters coming at them from both sides, the cousins’ bonds of friendship and filial piety are being pushed to the very limits. Will their love for each other and the support of the men at their side be enough to weather the incoming tide of challenges? Or will they be powerless against the waves of haters?

When news first broke that Snooki would be coming out with a book, the announcement was understandably welcomed with derision and disbelief. After all, Snooki has only ever been known for her trademark pouf hairstyle, her small stature, and getting punched in the face by a man during the first few episodes of “Jersey Shore”.

At least Snooki seems aware that this is exactly what made her famous, because the first few chapters of “A Shore Thing” certainly mirror more than a few aspects of the hit MTV show. Even the characters of Gia and Bella are barely disguised stand-ins for Snooki and her castmate, Jenni “J-woww” Farley, right down to the trademark pouf and post-surgical breasts.

In Gia, we see the characteristics that have made Snooki famous – or infamous, depending on how you look at it – to American audiences. Gia is lovably daft, constantly bumbling her way through life and still inexplicably ending up on top. She may step on some toes and mess up a few well-laid plans, but none of it is done with any malice or even intent.

One also has to give credit to Snooki and her co-writer, Valerie Frankel, for at least having an honest assessment of what it is exactly that Gia brings to the table. Gia is the first one among the characters in the novel to admit that she isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the box, and this self-deprecation makes for some funny moments and turns of phrase. For all of her deficiencies, Gia still possesses a rough charm.

However, having to deal with her ineptitude for more than 100 pages is a different story entirely. What is endearingly stupid and comedic in the first few chapters becomes a grating schtick when it has been repeated for the nth time almost 200 pages in.

It doesn’t help that the surrounding cast of characters doesn’t prop Gia up. Bella and her indecisiveness throughout the book is more frustrating than fun. Looking to the book’s male characters isn’t any better. Bender and Ed are already made out to be perverts, but even the romantic leads for the book’s heroines – Tony Troublino and Frank Rossi – only seem to have sex and pretty much nothing else on their minds.

The plot is as simple as the characters that move in it. Everyone seems to be operating on just their basest and most primitive needs and not much else. It would have been tempting to think that the cousins’ quest for booze and boys was a metaphor for the journey towards empowerment, but that quest is exactly just that – a hunt for booze and boys.

The most depth – and that term is being used loosely on this occasion – that the book achieves is when it describes a scene where Bella is almost raped by Bender. While Bella does escape, the misogynistic train of thought that goes through the mind of Bender’s pal, Ed, is certainly harrowing and slightly disturbing.

I quote:

Ben was apparently trying to talk the girl into joining him [in the hot tub]. She kept shaking her head. What a cock tease. Why go home with a guy if she wasn’t going to bang him?

Ben waded over to get closer to her. Then he grabbed her wrist and pulled her toward him. She resisted, tried to jerk her arm free. But Ben held on tight, talking the whole time. he got hold of her other wrist.

Oh, yes! As Ed watched, Ben pulled the girl right into the hot tub, in her clothes! She went under the water and sputtered to the surface. Ben didn’t give her a chance to breath. He was all over her, hands everywhere. Once he got a girl in the hot tub, it was over. Done. Ben would pound her for sure, whether she liked it or not.

Whoa, a lot of splashing! This girl was putting up a fight. Most whores would just give in at this point and accept the situation they were in. If she ate the dinner, took the gifts, came home with you, she was obliged to put out. If she changed her mind and didn’t want to? Too bad. Things might get a little rough. She deserved what happened. Whores didn’t respect themselves. So why should Ed and Bender respect them?

Ed tried to zoom the function on the camera, adjusting the focus to sharpen the picture. He moved in for a close-up and could see the girl’s face a lot better. When things got heated, most girls looked scared. But this one was pissed! Ed smiled. He liked the fighters.

Ben tore her dress. Her tits popped out.

“Holy cow! Look at those udders!” said Ed to himself, momentarily stunned by the splendor.

This was my face after reading those paragraphs.

In the end, reading Snooki’s debut novel is a bit like hanging out with drunk people at a beach. It’s hilarious watching them stumble drunkenly around the sand dunes while they’re just on the road to inebriation, but you certainly don’t want to stick around and hold their hair for them when they start throwing up. Other than diehard fans of “Jersey Shore”, it’s hard to imagine hanging around to take a look at this mess.

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