Cool Rule #1: you are exactly who you think you are. Cool Rule #2: there’s nothing cooler than self-confidence. Cool Rule #3: always play the part of the one who cares the least. If only Kylie Chase, protagonist in Johanna Edwards’ new novel, How to Be Cool, could take her own advice. A reformed “fat girl,” Kylie has overcome a past so uncool, so awkward, degrading and worthy of copious amounts of self-flagellation, that not a page of this book goes by without some reference to it. More than a decade later, she’s a “cool instructor” who’s still obsessed with who she was when she wasn’t cool. Which is understandable, especially when the opening chapter has her trapped in a Saks Fifth Avenue dressing room, listening as two former high school classmates mock her. “Hey, remember in the ninth grade when we put that poster of Moby-Dick on Kylie’s locker?” they laugh. “As if Kylie Chase knows even one iota about what’s cool.”
But things really have changed for Kylie. Now 75 pounds lighter, she has a closet filled with svelte-sized designer clothes and a career at Sloan Image Consultants as a “bona fide ‘cool instructor.’ ” Her client roster is full, and she’s been photographed and featured in too many celebrity magazines like People and US Weekly to count. An ugly duckling turned swan, it’s now her job to transform others from “geek to chic.” In less than two months, Kylie “can help you become a savvy dresser, plan a stellar date, master the art of small talk, fit in at parties, or generally reinvent your social life.” Edwards—a journalist and radio/television producer in Memphis—is the author of two other novels: The Next Big Thing and Your Big Break. With a character like Kylie Chase, she has found the perfect fictional muse, especially when it comes to a book like How to Be Cool. Whether it’s chick lit or a great summer beach read, the book is clearly geared toward an audience that likes to keep things breezy, fun and preferably pop culture. Her characters don’t reach for their cell phones; they flip open their pink Razrs. They don’t have purses; they carry Prada clutches. They reference not Cary Grant but Zack in Saved by the Bell. In short, it’s a book for the moment, plotted with lighthearted comedy and romance in mind.
It won’t change the face of literature, nor is Kylie Chase the next Bridget Jones, but those not living the Gucci lifestyle can relate to Kylie, especially since she isn’t a Vogue-perfect blonde and she did grow up in the suburbs. How to Be Cool is a book about life in the fast lane written with a knowing smirk. Kylie may have 21 “Rules for Cool” and she may appear to live the glamorous life, but on the inside, she’s just like everyone else: insecure, uncool (there’s more than one Star Wars convention in her past) and prone to caring way too much. When her apartment burns down, she’s ashamed to be almost 30 and living at home with her parents. With her high school reunion fast approaching, she dreams of catching the eye of a long-past, unrequited crush, intent on proving she’s no longer nerd of the century. And when a playboy journalist asks to write a high-profile magazine story about her, she does everything she can to keep him from finding out the truth of her uncool past. It’s a crazed life, but Kylie can’t let it interfere with her real job of helping the chic-less. The socialite Charity St. James is desperate for celebrity and has no patience for being the “thinking man’s Paris Hilton”; she’d rather take the more traditional route and release a celebrity sex tape. Austin Dunbar is a 19-year-old math and science genius who “can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than thirty seconds, but... [has] never played a game of spin the bottle.” Since quitting college, he won’t leave his room and his parents fear he’s becoming another 40-Year-Old Virgin. Dennis Moop, Kylie’s newest client and one of the more endearing characters in the book, is 27 and spends his days and nights on the computer. Socially awkward to say the least, his last romantic encounter was a dating horror story: “He took a blind date to IHOP in the middle of the night and then got so nervous he fainted into his Rooty Tooty Fresh ’N Fruity breakfast.” If Kylie can learn to take her own advice, she just might just make it. “Never pretend to be someone you’re not,” states Cool Rule #4. “Learn to be cool within your own limits,” states #14. “Cool people are sometimes down, but never out,” says Cool Rule #21. Better words of advice were never spoken.
All those podcasts Jeff Brown listed are so lame. They're all business-oriented "become a great…
Megan Fox and Dave Barry
Walton Goggins for Fox. Claire Danes, if you squint, for Barry.