Close your eyes. Try to remember back ten, fifteen, even twenty five years to your formative years spent in high school. All the friends you made, the worksheets filled out and the bullies desperately avoided. Well, probably not everyone had to deal with bullies. Author Matthew Dicks did and having a last name like that probably wasn’t kind to him. His latest novel, The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is an ode to the times that he had to deal with bullies growing up.
Caroline Jacobs is a chronic appeaser. She says okay far too often. She avoids her teenage daughter because she doesn’t know how to communicate with her. Her photography, while probably top notch, doesn’t grace the eyes of anyone aside from her husband for fear of rejection. Until one night during a PTA meeting when Caroline lets loose. After witnessing another parent being bullied by the PTA leader, Caroline stands up and throws a “F*ck You” towards the front of the room. Feeling alive inside, Caroline decides to do something she should have done years ago: confront her former best friend turned enemy who stole her group of friends and alienated her in high school. Thus begins the perfect comeback of Caroline Jacobs.
For Dicks the entire crutch of this novel is the comeback. Caroline Jacobs plays this tiny, miniscule version of a woman that seemingly snaps one night. She goes from polite and not even passive aggressive to a full blown outlash in public. After much thinking she realises that all of this pent up anger is because of her former best friend and how she was treated that fateful day in the cafeteria. So she embarks on an adventure, one that she drags her daughter into, to confront that bully and make the perfect comeback. Except that comeback isn’t so perfect. Although the book is short, the reader spends almost 150 pages getting near the comeback, then it just sort of falls flat. It’s by no means a bad book, oh no. The writing is excellent, but the ending just takes on a Jodi Picoult quality that doesn’t really work with this kind of story.
Rating: 3 out of 5 – Although the writing is solid and interesting, The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs ends up a little less perfect and far more substandard.