Wild Ride, by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Wild Ride is the most successful of the Jennifer Crusie/Bob Mayer collaborations to date: fast, fun, and deliciously weird. Admittedly, we still prefer Crusie's solo work, but how could anyone hate on a book that features a murderous troop of demon-infested It's A Small World-style mannequins?

As with their previous collaborations, Wild Ride is told from two perspectives—one from each author. Crusie's heroine is Mary Alice ("Mab") Brannigan, an antisocial, workaholic painter who specializes in restoring carnival art. Mayer's contribution is Ethan Wayne, a former Green Beret with a too-dangerous-to-remove bullet inching ever closer to his heart. Mab just wants to do her work in peace, and Ethan just wants to drink himself into a stupor, but when they discover the faded Ohio amusement park they're both working on is actually a holding tank for five powerful demons, their personal problems have to take a back seat to the monsters roaming the park.

Wild Ride is closer to Crusie's style than Mayer's, although it has fewer romantic elements than straight comedy ones. (In an unusual move, Mab and Ethan are not romantic partners, and hardly interact in the first half of the novel.) Mab's storyline—which includes, but is not limited to, possessed clown statues, half-demon babies, several crazy mothers, and considerable personal growth—is so gleefully over-the-top that Ethan's pales in comparison. His early sections dragged, and his love interest was a total snooze (at least until she acquired a possessed stuffed animal), but by the second half of the novel I was almost as invested in his storyline as I was in Mab's... but not quite.

However, both storylines are really just window dressing for the true joy of this novel: its setting. We have no idea why there aren't more novels set in amusement parks, but there definitely should be. Mayer and Crusie invoke all of the color, noise, and inherent creepiness of these classic pieces of Americana, and it makes their already-enjoyable romantic comedy infinitely more memorable.

And when you add in those creepy Small World dolls? That's pure gold, people. Pure gold.

[Review based on publisher-provided copy.]
Posted by: Julianka


17 Mar, 2010 09:36 PM @ version 0

Loved this, but even more stoked about Crusie's next stand-alone! Didn't 'Bet Me' come out in, like, 2005? What is she waiting for?!?!

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