THE marketing team at HarperCollins must have been jumping up and down with joy when Candace Bushnell announced her latest book, The Carrie Diaries, was ready; just in time for the release of the second Sex And The City movie.
What with the obscene amount of publicity being dished out on the film, the book is sure to sell well. After all, if the fans of the HBO series are tired of watching the same old scenes over and over again, and have bought the DVD of the first film, they're sure to snap up this book.
The Carrie Diaries purports to be the "prequel" to the more famous books that were the basis for the 90s phenomenon that was the Sex and the City series. However, as someone who spent far more time watching the TV show than reading the books, I was thrown for a six by many of this novel's plot lines.
Most glaringly is the fact that in The Carrie Diaries, Carrie has a dad; it's her mother that's died and left her, and her two sisters, alone with a bumbling, but loveable, father figure.
In the TV series, the fact that Carrie's father left her as a child is the centrepoint around which all her terrible relationships with men – and her eventual marriage to a much older, more sensible, man – revolve. So discovering in The Carrie Diaries a completely opposite storyline was odd, to say the least.
Likewise, I can't for the life of me remember if there was ever any mention of Carrie having any siblings. I remember Charlotte's brother – Samantha slept with him – and Miranda had a sibling of some sort that we saw at the funeral of her mother.
Still, books are rarely translated completely faithfully onto the small, or large, screen, so on to the rest of the novel.
We meet Carrie as she's entering the last year of high school. She has friends, family and a sort of boyfriend. She's one of the 'smart' kids at school, not exactly a part of the cool set. But she does want to be a writer.
Honestly, there's not really a lot more to say. The story meanders along, following Carrie through the ups and down of an average American teenager's life. There's a bit of smoking – she obviously started young – some drinking and drug taking, a waffling drone about should she or shouldn't she have sex as 'everyone else is doing it' and discussions about getting in Brown University.
Any drama to be had comes from a younger sister acting out, getting in trouble with the police, and a very shallowly drawn boyfriend who turns out to be a dropkick.
If this book wasn't based on the famous TV character, there would be no point to reading it. Carrie as a teen doesn't undergo any dramatic 'coming of age' experiences, she isn't an original thinker, she's not even that exciting from a fashion perspective.
There are random references to what she chooses to wear every so often, and one incident with her mother's old handbag, but that's about it. And these passages feel forced, as though the author went back through the book and thought, 'oh, should really add a fashion reference for all the TV fans'.
Admittedly there are probably people out there who will love this book, who'll be able to move on from the inconsistencies and enjoy the portrayal of a somewhat iconic pop culture character.
Unfortunately, I found little to recommend The Carrie Diaries. It's not badly written, exactly, but it comes across more as a Young Adult novel than something a 30-something Sex and the City fan would enjoy. There's no raunchy sex for example.
I am also, perhaps, a bit biased by my feelings about the recent film. Like many fans of the series who watched it while making my own way in the professional world, the latest film seems to have negated all that hard work.
Sex and the City 2 (SATC2) has been lambasted by reviewers for returning it's stars to a kind of retro 50s 'little woman' mentality, where their marriages and children have taken over not only their lives, but also their personalities. But even this, a valid issue in these days of working mothers, is treated so superficially that you just want to punch someone. What working mother do you know wears haute couture gowns to feed their toddlers?
To add insult to injury, the setting of SATC2 in Abu Dhabi has women with brains up in arms across the world. The one city in the world that does not allow women to drive cars, wear revealing clothes or be alone with a male not her husband, father or son; and the producers set one of the sexyist, ground-breaking, grrl power stories there.
Not only that, the four friends don't even seem to be aware of these issues. There's a bit of lame referencing to 'the poor local women', and are the maxi dresses an attempt to cover up? Not if they're completely sheer and leave arms, neck and boobs on show. Singing 'I A Woman' surrounded by belly-dancers does not a feminist statement make; it doesn't even manage to soothe general feelings of political correctness.
In fact, the producers should have had second thoughts when they had to actually film the Abu Dhabi scenes in Morocco. Apparently it's less 'restrictive' when it comes to women showing skin. Honestly!
The actual film, despite be set in Abu Dhabi, has now been banned in the United Arab Emirates, which just goes to prove how wrong that set decision was.
As a tie in to this actual book review (sorry, got a bit 'carried' away), ie. How it's all just about the money; the wardrobe of designer clothes the stars wore reportedly cost up to US$10 million! Despite the producers insisting that many of the garments were lent for 'free', the fact that the clothes alone were worth even half that much is just staggering.
On top of this, the obviousness of the product placement – changing Carrie's iconic Mac for a HP laptop; featuring the Halston Heritage label, Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Carrie, is the chief creative officer of the brand, and the rumours of funding coming from the Abu Dhabi tourism association – just cheapens what was a important cultural icon for many women.
The best explanation of what's so wrong with the two SATC movies comes from The Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman in her piece The death of Sex and the City.
So, combined with all this and the lack of any real story, The Carrie Diaries, seems just another attempt by the author – who has made an absolute fortune from the other books – to cash in on the publicity and the promotion of the film.
If you can get past all of this, and are an adamant fan of Carrie, then get yourself a copy of The Carrie Diaries. However if you're more of a Samantha fan, or a Charlotte fan, or a Miranda fan, then you'll probably be wasting your money.
Hmm... maybe Bushnell is planning to write The Samantha Diaries etc, ad nauseam? I hope not.
The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell is published by HarperCollins and is available from good book stores and online.