Multi-million-dollar inheritances, credit-card-carrying kids, and $10,000 birthday parties for eight-year-olds: welcome to the world of the Lucky Sperm Club. The only way to be admitted to this exclusive group is to be born to insanely wealthy parents. Cash-strapped single mom Amanda has a four-year-old daughter, Clover, a member of the club thanks to her ATM Dad (so named because he is a better bank machine than father). When Clover’s paternal grandmother dies and wills her a huge inheritance, her estranged father enrolls her in the most prestigious private school in the city, where she is quickly accepted by the “richie riches.” Clover moves up the social ladder with ease, but Amanda can only fake it as she descends into massive debt trying to fit in with her new yummy mummy friends.
The biggest problem with Rebecca Eckler’s first novel for adults is that it’s incredibly difficult to feel sorry for Amanda. She continually makes horrible decisions, including blowing $15,000 on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Maui and lying to her daughter about owning their home (the house is actually a rental, and they get kicked out). Although Eckler tries to position her protagonist in opposition to the book’s vain and vapid wealthy wives, Amanda is every bit as self-absorbed. She tosses her best friends and boyfriend to the curb in favour of richer alternatives, and spends her rent money on manicures and Jimmy Choos.
Clover, who appears in the book at ages four, eight, 13, and 15, is reprehensible – a bratty and entitled Paris Hilton in the making. Despite this, the novel manages to wrap itself in an excessively pretty bow by the end, which presents the reader with forgiving friends and exes, and turns bratty Clover into a sweet, supportive daughter. Yes, chick lit is meant to be escapist, but it’s impossible to believe Amanda’s downward spiral could be reversed so completely.
To make matters worse, Eckler’s writing mimics that of a celebrity gossip blogger – what at first appears punchy and cutesy clever quickly becomes grating.
Still, at least The Lucky Sperm Club takes the form of fairy-tale fiction. When the author turns to non-fiction, things get even worse. Eckler thinks dating a boyfriend is akin to raising a child. At least, that’s the premise behind How to Raise a Boyfriend, her highly offensive relationship guide, which promotes negative stereotypes that set gender equality back about 50 years. The single mother of a six-year-old daughter, Eckler thinks that if she can raise a smart, kind, and polite child, surely she can raise a respectable boyfriend, too. She wants a man who’s willing to admit when he’s wrong, compliment her when she looks good, and not abandon her in the grocery store check-out line. In short, Eckler wants what most of us want: a significant other who treats her with respect. But the respect runs in only one direction: by treating her man like a toddler, Eckler hardly returns the favour.
Rather than exploring how to achieve a more balanced and equitable relationship, Eckler positions her book as a tool that teaches women how to get what they want from a man. Her lack of respect for men is pervasive: she explains why she includes opinions from some of her ex-boyfriends by saying, “I think it’s important for women to hear the men’s side of things, even if the men’s side is fucking dumb.”
Her suggestions about how to improve a relationship aren’t just narrow-minded, they’re manipulative, cruel, and often depend on sexual rewards. Want your boyfriend to compliment you more? Falsely tell him you were an insecure teenager and you need his reassurances to feel worthy. Want him to remember to buy your yogurt at the grocery store? Purposely “forget” to buy his cereal and ask him how that feels. Want him to call you during the day, get you a gift, or let you pick the movie? Promise him sex.
Eckler posits that stereotypes of uncommunicative and forgetful men still hold true, but she also promotes the stereotype that all women are nags and annoyingly sentimental. For Eckler, negative gender stereotypes are apparently prerequisites for “raising” the perfect man.
Once again employing a gossipy writing style, Eckler tries to keep the tone light, but she’s so overly chummy with the reader it’s difficult to take her relationship advice seriously. Hopefully, wise women will skip test-driving her damaging and dangerous advice.