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Sunday, September 20, 2009

'Stephanie Plum' SERIES by Janet EVANOVICH


Stephanie Plum is a failed lingerie-buyer turned bounty hunter. She’s a Jersey girl with a soft spot for pineapple upside-down cake. And when she’s not playing ‘choo choo’ with hottie-cop Joe Morelli (she’s the tunnel, he’s the train), she’s trying to keep her libido in check around fellow bounty hunter and possible Batman vigilante, Ranger.

It seems to be the trend at the moment that I am pathetically behind the times with my reading habits. Janet Evanovich’s extremely popular ‘Stephanie Plum’ crime fiction series started in 1994 with ‘One for the Money’, and is still going strong with the release this year of ‘Finger Lickin’ Fifteen’.

I’ve been steadily making my way through the 15 books over the past 4 weeks, and I have had up’s and down’s reading this series.

First off, I love these books, and I am officially a Plum addict. Janet Evanovich, a Jersey girl herself, has written a truly inspiring character in Stephanie Plum. She is the ultimate lemons into lemonade girl; you can knock her down but she’ll just get back up. She is a clumsy, bumbling and entirely endearing bounty hunter – totally relatable in the trials and tribulations of her love life and flailing career, but just ballsy enough to carry the leading-lady weight of this series so that you can’t help but root for her.

Evanovich’s true talent lies in writing secondary characters. From Stephanie’s gun-nut grandmother Mazur, to her prostitute-turned-secretary-sometimes-sidekick Lulu. Evanovich’s ‘Plum’ series comes to life with these periphery characters who keep Stephanie and readers on their toes.

Evanovich has also done a spectacular job of segregating her readers into two camps, depending on which one of Stephanie’s Alpha males tickles your fancy. Joe Morelli is her tough-as-nails detective boyfriend, with whom she shares several early childhood sexual encounters and who stole her virginity behind an éclair stand. He’s quick to grin and rib Stephanie, but underneath his easy sexuality Evanovich has written a layered man who fights the darkness of his job with the love he feels toward Stephanie.

Ranger is a whole other ball game. For the first-half of the series, Stephanie and Lulu are half convinced that the bad-ass Latino Ranger has his own batcave and dons a mask and cape in his spare time. It isn’t until ‘Twelve Sharp’ that more of Ranger’s past is revealed, adding layers to the man in black. Ranger is an especially delicious love interest for Stephanie because, despite his hard-ass exterior, he proves again and again throughout the series that he does care for Stephanie, in his own way.

Because I read the ‘Plum’ series back-to-back, one book after another, it became pretty clear by around book 13 that there is a draw-back to this wonderful series; nothing is changing.

One rule of thumb in literature (anything from 'Pride & Prejudice' to Mills & Boon) is that characters have to change – they cannot stagnate, they have to evolve. Because no matter how weird and wonderful the situations you create for them, it all means diddly squat if they don’t learn anything from those situations and have a growth spurt. When Stephanie Plum started out bounty hunting she learnt a few tough lessons very quickly, she got disturbingly used to violence, stalking and having her apartment broken into by a myriad of bad-guys. This all lead to the reader witnessing Stephanie toughen up, and gradually learn than she is a lot stronger than she looks. Half-way through the series she started getting used to seeing the people she loves being put into dire situations, and from there was able to articulate her need for them in her life and her dependency on their love. This was all great stuff, subtly revealed over time. But in the last few books nothing has changed, particularly with regards to her love interests.

By ‘Finger Lickin’ Fifteen’ Stephanie has a pretty good grasp on her job, she’s had the career-crisis and quit, and has even stuck to her guns and insisted on retaining her bounty hunter job when Joe pushed her to quit. Now it’s her romantic relationships that need another shake-up.

In ‘Finger Lickin’ Fifteen’ it’s much of the same. She and Joe are still doing the dirty, with no tangible commitment on the horizon. Ranger is still on the outskirts, both he and readers hoping Stephanie will do something to push their relationship forward instead of remaining at this frustrating standstill.

I love this series, I really do. I embarrassed myself many times reading these books on the train to University, with my random bursts of hysterical laughter. But I need something to change now. I, for one, am rooting for a Ranger/Stephanie hook-up in the next book.

Highly recommend this series, with a warning that you will become frustrated around book 13 with the lack of forward momentum.

4.5/5

2 comments:

  1. I'm so glad to see this review! My 70-something year old aunt gave me a few of these books and I thought "Whaaaa? Whatever." But I've been hearing some good things about them. Your review has given me a good overview of the series and I'm interested in giving it a try. Thanks!

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  2. Danielle,

    I love this series. :) I run out and buy the new books as soon as they hit the shelves. Grandma Mazur is by far my favorite secondary character - she is a hoot. I love Stephanie's Dad as well - he is so clueless at times.

    I have laughed out loud on several occasions - I've promised Hubby I won't read this series in bed anymore because I have woken him from a sound sleep laughing so hard.

    On the one hand I want Stephanie with Ranger - cause every time he says 'babe' it makes me smile. But then I want Stephanie with Morelli cause - well he has Bob the wonder dog and a house in the 'burbs.....I'm just glad I don't have to make the choice between the two. LOL

    M

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